Learning To Speak Greenspan
Where's Waldo? For the six years he served as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, Laurence Meyer asked himself that question while attempting to puzzle out Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's oblique but sometimes world-shaking public utterances.
"I came to see that reading the Chairman's speeches and testimony was a bit like reading the children's book 'Where's Waldo?' " Meyer writes in his forthcoming book, "A Term at the Fed: An Insider's View." Waldo, he says, was Greenspan's key message, "often a single sentence, buried somewhere in the speech."
Meyer admits he missed the Waldo lurking in Greenspan's famous "irrational exuberance" speech at an American Enterprise Institute dinner in December 1996. But as a new member of the Fed board, "I must be forgiven because I hadn't yet learned the Chairman's ways," he writes.
Some pointers: "If the Chairman wanted the sentence to get maximum attention, he might place it toward the beginning of the speech. If he wanted it to receive less market reaction, he might place it somewhere in the middle and flash it quickly, rather than drawing attention to it with further elaboration."
Meyer, who served from 1996 to 2002, portrays the Fed as "a rather lonely place to work" and adds to Greenspan's reputation for seeming remote. "I wouldn't call the Chairman a chatty person," he writes. "The irony is that Alan Greenspan is a very interesting person and a warm, wonderful conversationalist -- who simply doesn't seem to like to have conversations." (At a reception a few months ago, we met the monetary maestro for the first time and marveled at how expertly he rebuffed our every approach at small talk with sagacious silence.)
We asked Greenspan's spokeswoman, Michelle Smith, if he cared to comment on the book. "No. I'm sorry," she said. But the chairman has been invited to the author's launch party July 15 at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, where Meyer is a distinguished scholar. As of Friday, no confirmation on whether Greenspan would risk moving markets by attending.
O'Reilly Rotates the Satire
* Laughing off a threatened lawsuit by left-wing writer Eric Alterman, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly says he was engaging in satire when he called Alterman a "confidant of Fidel Castro." Nevertheless, he has issued a retraction, of sorts.
"Eric, baby, you're anti-Castro. All right? That was a joke, Eric. I'm having a little fun at your expense," O'Reilly said on his show last week after being asked to recant in an exchange with John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, where Alterman is a senior fellow. (Just FYI: Alterman has publicly denounced Castro's dictatorship.)
"It's satire," said O'Reilly. "You know how that satire thing goes now, don't you?"
Indeed. After Fox's unsuccessful suit against Al Franken's book last year over use of the term "fair and balanced," O'Reilly lashed out against such funny business. "They can't win the debate," he told The Washington Post. "They can't win the ratings war. So let's turn to defamation and we'll hide behind the satirist's label to defame."
The Cursed Fate of Ralph Nader
* Dick "F-Bomb" Cheney wasn't the only cussing-mad politico on the Hill last week. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) confirms she got riled up during independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's invited appearance before the Congressional Black Caucus at a closed-door meeting Tuesday.
"I said, 'You ought to get your ass out" of the race, Kilpatrick told The Post's Hamil Harris. "I am just passionate, as were other members. But at no time did we disrespect Ralph Nader."
Nader complained of "obscene shouting" by Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), but Watt wouldn't comment on whether he cursed: "I thought that I was honest with him. I told him that I thought that he was arrogant and his whole presidential campaign was an ego trip."
The caucus uniformly called on Nader to withdraw rather than take votes away from John Kerry. Retorts Nader: "We all have an equal right to run for office. . . . We are all spoilers because we all are trying to take voters from each other."
Jesse Jackson, whose 33rd annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition convention kicked off in Chicago yesterday, declined to enter the fray when asked about Nader, but he did tell Harris that the Democratic Party could do a better job mobilizing its base: "There is a huge body of unregistered Democrat and pro-labor voters. There has not been enough focus on registering them."
Well, at least politicians are reaching out to the potty-mouthed voters.
This Date in Gossip
Sixty-two years ago:
FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover announces that G-men arrested eight Nazi saboteurs who had landed by U-boat in Long Island and Florida -- touching off a nationwide manhunt for more German agents and a frenzy of whispers and suspicion regarding foreigners. Although Hoover claims FBI agents were on the Germans' trail "from the moment the first group set foot on U.S. soil," turncoat saboteur George Dasch had to travel to FBI headquarters to get the bureau to take him seriously. After hundreds of thousands of "Wanted" posters for a three-man saboteur team led by Walter Kappe, a former leader of the German-American Bund, were plastered around the country, suspects were hauled off trains, airline flights and ships. As chronicled by The Washington Post's Michael Dobbs in his new book, "Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America," three Frenchmen were arrested in Boston and released only after proving they were employed in the French consulate. The manhunt ultimately proved fruitless for the follow-on team of saboteurs; intent on targeting railway lines and aluminum factories, its members had never left Germany.
With Anne Schroeder