In Dealing With the GOP on the Financial Crisis and Bailout, Nancy Pelosi Should Take a Page From J. P. Morgan

Back in 1895, Morgan took the government for all it was worth. It's time for Pelosi to get as tough.

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Somewhere in heaven, or that other place, J. P. Morgan is chuckling in appreciation at the spectacle of a Republican administration, literally on bended knee, asking Nancy Pelosi to bail out Wall Street.

And at the Republican House members, who are whining that she hurt their feelings with a well-deserved tongue-lashing yesterday.

Pelosi is a fool, Morgan would say, if she doesn't hold Bush up for all he's worth.

Morgan did, a little more than a century ago, when the roles were reversed. Then it was a Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, who was trying to shore up a crumbling U.S. economy and an almost-bankrupt government.

Morgan braved a February snowstorm in 1895, showed up at the White House, and announced that he would put together a syndicate of international financiers to sell Cleveland the gold that the Treasury desperately needed.

The great robber baron drove a hard bargain. Morgan got government bonds from the Cleveland administration for $104.50 each; he then sold them on the open market for $112.25.

Cleveland was ridiculed for causing the crisis, and for letting Morgan pick his pocket. William McKinley won the White House in 1896, starting a Republican era that lasted, with but slight interruption, until the Great Depression.

There's your Wall Street patriotism. We are a country built on gold, tobacco, slavery, and sweatshops. Now, as then, we will muddle through this setback like all the others, on avarice and initiative.

And if Pelosi's price for rescuing the Republicans from this, their latest catastrophic misjudgment, is a good scolding—they should learn to like it. It's cheap at twice the price.