What Bush Left Out

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 25, 2008; 12:31 PM

In a rare prime-time speech last night, President Bush tried to terrify the American public into supporting his administration's proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Given that some sort of compromise proposal was apparently already being worked out with congressional leaders, that might have been overkill.

But Bush clearly underperformed in addressing two things about the financial crisis. He didn't acknowledge any responsibility for what happened under his watch. And even more significantly, he didn't do nearly enough to assuage anger that the fat-cat Wall Street masters who profited so obscenely from driving the mortgage market into a frenzy are now going to be bailed out with taxpayer dollars, even as ordinary people continue to suffer.

The Innocent Bystander

Terence Hunt writes for the Associated Press: "How did it happen, America's grave financial crisis? President Bush offered a bunch of explanations but held Washington completely blameless, painting a picture of a government standing innocently on the sidelines as the economy went off the rails.

"Somehow, under Bush's scenario, the country wound up at the precipice of 'a long and painful recession' at a time when, apparently, the Congress, the White House, the regulators and the Fed were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. Now that the economy has tanked, Bush says the federal government is responding with 'decisive action.'

"Shouldn't the people in charge have been doing that before everything became such a mess? . . .

"Nowhere in his 13-minute speech did the president suggest that the people in Washington who are supposed to keep an eye on the economy missed a step, failed to raise alarms or hesitated to intervene. The guilty parties in Bush's script were overseas lenders flush with cash, American borrowers reaching for more than they could afford, easy credit terms, a banking system eager to cooperate and too much optimism about rising home values.

"Bush spoke vaguely about investment banks that 'found themselves saddled with' toxic assets and banks that 'found themselves' with questionable balance sheets.

"The economic collapse -- well, it happened."

Steve Clemons blogs: "What is shocking about the presentation by Bush -- and the deal that is unfolding -- is that we don't see any acceptance of responsibility for the failure of his team's stewardship of the economy. We didn't hear acknowledgment that the compulsive deregulation mantra of Bush's political and economic allies created a massive bubble where lots of billionaires were created and now tens of millions of less fortunate Americans are holding the bill.

"We didn't hear Bush say that it's time to reverse the tax cuts that he put in place to help those who have already benefited from the perverse finance and housing bubble that was pumped up.

"We didn't hear a firm commitment from Bush to help the working families who hold these sub-prime and adjustable rate mortgages to stay in their homes and to help stabilize the lives of hard-hit Americans, their neighborhoods and their jobs. All the while, the macro players and big firms and their stakeholders are bailed out."

Not a Giveaway?

John D. McKinnon writes in the Wall Street Journal: "The president tried to defuse widespread criticism of the $700 billion plan as a bailout of Wall Street, telling Americans in a prime-time televised address that the program 'is aimed at preserving America's overall economy,' not individual companies or industries. . . .

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