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October 8, 2008

Bringing Up The Rear


Last night’s presidential debate made me even more convinced how significant this picture is.  It was taken October 2nd and shows Secretary Paulson at the White House after meeting with Bush about the bailout bill.  Bush signed the legislation the next day.

In the lead story in the NYT a couple days later, in almost a throw-away line, it was reported the measure hadn’t even made a ripple in the crisis.

Is there any wonder why that debate audience was so icy last night?  Not only did these “Main Streeters” walk into that debate feeling alienated, the problem was compounded by the dismal failure of either candidate to explain either the cause of the bailout, or the logic of the multibillion dollar rescue itself.

What the photo captures (in its media rabidness) is the feeling that the bailout, and the intense, end-of-the-world drama surrounding it, was just a show by and for the suits (with you and I, typically, stuck back here to watch).  I’m not saying that’s true, by the way, but in the pitiful absence of communication and education from anyone in leadership, it makes it all too easy to suspect.

(slightly revised 3:25 PST)

(image: Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME. White House Photo Blog. Oct. 02, 2008. caption:  U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson speaks after a meeting with President George W. Bush House at the White House.)

  • Victoria

    Here’s the question I keep asking myself: HOW? How could this be communicated better? The news shows I have caught certainly don’t seem up to it. Incredibly, NPR’s This American Life (available online) has done two money shows that were more effective than any network source.
    Doris Kearns Goodwin mentioned on Charlie Rose last night that FDR did a forty-minute radio address to explain the financial situation to the American people, to which John McWhorter replied (something like), “That was another time. Pre- TV. We live in a time of too many distractions and limited attention spans.”
    How would a candidate ever do it within the strict two-minute format of that “town hall”?
    Now if only Americans could take their frustration to the library and begin reading serious newspapers and listening to more demanding radio and going to public forums and reading books on the topic.
    Turns out we can’t afford our lousy national attention span.

  • jtfromBC

    “Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
    I come to bury ….. not to praise …. “

  • martin

    Hanks a big man. Its worth not forgetting that.
    For me, he has always been Colonel Kurtz. Without Conrads intonnate. 30 years after Francis Ford filmed it as ‘Apocalypse Now’ I heard Coppolla interviewed about Marlons’ role: whether him being overweight distracted from ‘the horror’ Kurtz conveyed.
    Francis thought not. That Brandos abscence was more than made up for during early shooting. Turning up, shaven headed and resurrecting ‘The Heart of Darkness’. That the weight issue was ‘disguised’ by filming from the’ head up’.
    Hanks’ suit seems to hang. From the front, I could get ‘the horror, the horror’: from the rear, I just get Hank-dawgd. Deputy dawgd. Musky if you will. Twitching in the absence (absenth) of the bosses.
    I like Hank. I think he has a certain integrity that hangs about him. Better than his suit. his suitors. his role within Goldman Sachs, his boss, his bosses boss. Or even Obama’s apparrent willingness to give him a future(s) job! Jesus

  • mcc

    In the lead economic story in the NYT a couple days later, I was completely shocked to read, in almost a throw-away line, how the measure hadn’t even made a ripple in the crisis.
    Thing is, the bailout measure isn’t… you know… doing anything yet. I mean, the program the bill created has not started. Since they haven’t done anything yet, it doesn’t seem to make sense to expect to be seeing any effects yet.
    This of course though only seems to raise more questions about why they did so much to create the impression that just passing or not passing this bill would kill or save the stock market instantly, or why there was SO LITTLE TIME THIS BILL HAD TO BE PASSED IMMEDIATELY without time for feedback from or debate by the public for something that, once passed, was just going to lead to a leisurely, “we’ll get going sometime in november” kind of process.

  • bluinky

    It being impossible for governments to remain in stable equilibrium when acted upon by inversely squared market forces,(stochastically speaking (division by zero being either impossible and/or infinite)): “Klaatu barada nikto” was declared…

  • Patton2008

    I’m freaked out by how a billionaire like Paulson can wear such an ill-fitting suit.
    He looks like a giant ape at the end of his prime — still commanding attention but just out of habit. An even bigger, younger and stronger ape is lurking over Paulson now. The question for the American people is: how do we protect ourselves from the apes and redeem our Constitution and Republic.

  • Stan B.

    From a purely photographic aesthetic- one helluva shot!

  • MonsieurGonzo

    It is interesting how often The Conversation casts the tense present of NOW in the future tense : as a “will” or “might become”.

    Will I live tomorrow?
    Well, I just can’t say
    Will I live tomorrow?
    Well, I just can’t say
    But I know for sure
    I don’t live today.
    No sun comin through my windows
    Feel like Im livin’ at the bottom of a grave
    No-ho sun comin through my windows
    Feel like I’m livin’ at the bottom of a grave
    I wish you’d hurry up and rescue me
    So I can be on my miserable way.
    (well!), I don’t
    Live today;
    Maybe tomorrow, I just can’t say, but, uh
    I don’t
    Live today;
    Its such a shame to waste your time away like this…

    It is interesting how the Americans still do not see their NOW as the Soviets experienced the collapse of their Empire, THEN:

    Two developments dominated the decade that followed: the increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet Union’s economic and political structures, and the patchwork attempts at reforms to reverse that process.

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