Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eight Years of This...

All I can say after reading the story in this month's GQ written by Matt Latimer, Republican speechwriter for George Bush is: no wonder we're swirling around in the toilet today.

Some quotes from Latimer's story below...

Matt learns about the impending crash...

"Chris had just come from a secret meeting in the Oval Office, and without so much as a hello he announced: 'Well, the economy is about to completely collapse.'

"'You mean the stock market?' I asked.

"'No, I mean the entire U.S. economy,' he replied. As in, capitalism. As in, hide your money in your mattress.

The secretary of the treasury, Hank Paulson, had sketched out a dire scenario. And Chris said we’d have to write a speech for the president announcing his 'bold' plan to deal with the crisis. (The president loved the word bold.)

We had to reassure the American people that everything was going to be okay. As it turned out, Secretary Paulson had a plan that would fix everything: a $700 billion bailout of the financial system. The plan, like the secretary himself (who’d been pretty much a nonperson at the White House), seemed to come out of nowhere, as if it had been hastily scribbled on a sheet of paper in the secretary’s car on his way to work. Basically, it could be summed up as: Give me hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and then trust me to do the right thing.

There was no denying it. This plan was certainly 'bold.'”

He talks about his dream to assist with the Reagan Revolution:

"As soon as I was able, and with the support of my baffled liberal parents, I packed up my old maroon Dodge Dynasty and said good-bye to my sleepy hometown.

My youthful exuberance cooled as I moved up the rungs of power. On Capitol Hill, I worked for a congressman who 'misremembered' basic facts, such as the 'Eisenhower assassination.' I worked for a senator who hid from his own staff. I was assigned to coach Republican senators on how to reach out to the media and entertainment world. (You try explaining The View to a group of 65-year-old white Republican men.) At the Pentagon, as chief speechwriter to Donald Rumsfeld, I battled an entrenched civil-service system and an inept communications team.

In 2007 I finally made it to the Bush White House as a presidential speechwriter. But it was not at all what I envisioned. It was less like Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing and more like The Office. After watching Karl Rove’s bizarre farewell to White House staffers and hearing the president dismiss the conservative movement I believed in (“I know it sounds arrogant to say,” he told me, “but I redefined the Republican Party”), I thought I could muddle through till the end. Washington might not have been the city I had dreamed of, but I figured things couldn’t get much worse."

He discusses his lack of confidence in the president's economic team...

"Unfortunately, I can’t say any of the president’s top economic advisers struck me as having a firm handle on the economic mess ahead. The economic team the president put together at first included his friend Al Hubbard. He may have been a competent adviser; I really didn’t know him. The only thing I knew about Al was that he went around putting whoopee cushions on people’s chairs in the West Wing."

Here we learn of the president's passion for being decisive (he was The Decider, after all)...

"AFTER CHRIS, Jonathan Horn, and I learned about the president’s $700-billion-bailout proposal and drafted the remarks announcing it to a stunned nation, Ed said the president wanted to see us in the Oval Office. The president looked relaxed and was sitting behind the Resolute desk. He felt he’d made the major decision that everyone had been asking for. That always seemed to relax him. He liked being decisive. Excuse me, boldly decisive. The president seemed to be thinking of his memoirs. 'This might go in as a big decision,' he mused.

'Definitely, Mr. President, someone else observed. 'This is a large decision.'”

On the puzzling and evolving nature of TARP...

"'We’re buying low and selling high,' [President Bush] kept saying.

The problem was that his proposal didn’t work like that. One of the president’s staff members anxiously pulled a few of us aside. “The president is misunderstanding this proposal,” he warned. “He has the wrong idea in his head.” As it turned out, the plan wasn’t to buy low and sell high. In some cases, in fact, Secretary Paulson wanted to pay more than the securities were likely worth in order to put more money into the markets as soon as possible. This was not how the president’s proposal had been advertised to the public or the Congress. It wasn’t that the president didn’t understand what his administration wanted to do. It was that the treasury secretary didn’t seem to know, changed his mind, had misled the president, or some combination of the three."

According to Matt, Bush referred to the McCain campaign as a "five-spiral crash" and wondered, with a twinkle in his eye, if Sarah Palin was the governor of Guam.

Then Matt leaves us with an indelible image...

"The president was clearly frustrated with what was going on, but there was little he could do at this late hour. He went up to take a nap, saying he was beat. He looked it. I’d never seen him more exhausted. His hair was out of place and shaggy. His face looked drained and pale. Even more distressing, he was wearing Crocs."

Crocs. That's just not the choice of footwear I'd expect in a decider...

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