Michael Grunwald’s ‘The New New Deal’

August 7, 2012

It's been a while since we've done a page 69 test on Wonkblog, and I can't think of a better book with which to start back up again than Time magazine senior correspondent Michael Grunwald's "The New New Deal," a history of the passage and implementation of the 2009 stimulus package. In case you've forgotten the test: Marshall McLuhan said the best way to choose a book is to open it to page 69. If you like what’s on that page, buy the book. For blogging purposes, if we at Wonkblog like what’s on page 69, we’ll post it to the blog.

Page 69 of "The New New Deal" is about how the Obama and McCain campaigns responded to the recession as its gravity started to become apparent. The Obama campaign had a dire assessment. McCain's people, omnipresent Moody's analyst Mark Zandi aside, were sunnier:

McCain's campaign cochairman, former Texas senator Phil Gramm, declared America was merely in a "mental recession" ginned up by "a nation of whiners," and though he vanished from public view — McCain suggested he'd make a good ambassador to Belarus — his complaint that the media were overhyping bad economic news reflected the campaign's thinking. "It was my job to watch the data, and I kept telling the other economists advising McCain that things were unraveling," Moody's Mark Zandi recalls. "They just didn't buy it." In his stump speeches, McCain kept repeating the Bush line that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong."

Obama knew that was nuts. His economics team — now led by Jason Furman from the Hamilton Project — was telling him the fundamentals of the economy were dreck. Obama was holding regular calls with Rubin, Summers, and other Democratic heavyweights; he was talking to Paulson and Bernanke as well. No one had anything rosy to say. "We could all see this was getting uglier and uglier," adviser Dan Tarullo recalls.

Grunwald's book comes out August 14, a week from today. You can preorder it here.

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Sarah Kliff · August 7, 2012