24 September 2007

Greenspan and Clinton

Some of the most quoted passages in the book concern Greenspan's high view of Bill Clinton.

"Here was a fellow information hound and, like me, Clinton clearly enjoyed exploring ideas. I walked away impressed, yet not entirely sure what I thought. Clearly, for sheer inteligence, Bill Clinton was on a par with Richard Nixon, who, despite his obvious flaws, was the smartest president I'd met to that point. And either Clinton shared many of my views on the way the economic system was evolving and on what should be done, or he was the cleverest chameleon I'd ever encountered."

Eventually, he drops the clever chameleon theory. "I was impressed that he did not seem to be trying to fudge reality to the extent politicians ordinarily do. He was forcing himself to live in the real world on the economic outlook and monetary policy. His subsequent decision to go ahead and fight for the deficit cuts was an act of political courage."

The whole of Chapter Seven, "A Democrat's Agenda," dealing basically with the first Clinton term, gives me the impression that Greenspan was a victim of the famous Clinton charm and the strategy of triangulation that BC so often employed that charm to serve.

Clinton persuaded people like Greenspan and, say, David Gergen, that they had to help him in order to ward off the danger that lefties like James Carville or Henry Gonzalez would otherwise pose. At the same time, of course, he earned the loyalty of the Carvilles and Gonzalezes by posing as their champion against Republican wheeler-dealers like Greenspan and Gergen. So far as Greenspan was concerned, this seems to have worked perfectly, and still to be working. Cleverest chameleon, indeed.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.