CNN just ran some video this morning of President Bush speaking at the American Enterprise Institute and of him responding to a question about the auto industry bailout. It was a surprisingly candid moment, and the president actually seemed to be at ease and reasoning thoughtfully—a rare view of him.
Bush shared his thoughts about whether or not to bail out the industry. His concerns included not allowing a ripple effect to hurt the average American (if the industry were to fail) and not throwing "good money after bad" if the government were to bail out the Big Three and it still went bankrupt at some not-too-distant point in the future.
His last concern, however, was the most unexpected. He said he had thought about what he would feel like if he were just becoming president now and inheriting the current financial mess. And he said he did not want to leave an economic catastrophe (my words, not his) behind. Good thinking! Just about eight years too late.
If President Bush had not launched the expensive and unnecessary Iraq war (which he and his vice president clearly wanted to do from just about the moment they took office) and if he had respect for government regulation, we would not be in this situation. Instead, he appointed a Securities and Exchange Commission chief, Christopher Cox, who mimicked Nero and fiddled while the derivatives market crashed and burned and cowboy investors such as Bernard Madoff swindled clients out of billions of dollars.
As Bloomberg reported:
Cox said yesterday the SEC failed to act for almost a decade on "credible and specific allegations" against Madoff. He announced an internal probe to review the "deeply troubling" revelations.
The one thing Mr. Bush did not do is admit he's in large part responsible for this mess. It's something he should do before he leaves office.