Well, the crisis is here and swirling all around us. You can tell by the pained and pinched looks on the faces of the members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and in particular Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men—you know the rest of that one.
You can’t tell a crisis is with us, here in this valley, by the throngs of people downtown last weekend, lining up for the Leonardo exhibit at the Tech and the Sharks game at HP Pavilion, those carrying shopping bags in Valley Fair, and thousands lining up at Farmers Markets from Santana Row to Campbell.
From the oddly mirthful look on George Bush’s face, to the brevity of his comments, to his faux crisis demeanor, we have never seen a leader as calm as this. Unfortunately, it is the result of a disconnection and obtuseness that is as unique as it is frightening in the modern annals of the presidency.
When the going gets tough, Bush heads for the ranch. This can be quite a mistake in a mayor and an unmitigated disaster in a president.
In San Jose, we had a financial crisis in 1984, when our leveraged bond market investments nearly caused the collapse of the city’s financial health. I was mayor; I would have dearly loved to hide. Unfortunately, my ranch was on the other side of Mount Hamilton, and all the brush had been cleared—by someone else. There was no place to hide.
I went on television. I told our citizens that we had suffered a horrible financial disaster. I assured them it was a case of stupidity, not corruption. I told them we were going to be alright. I concluded with the old slogan: “We took a licking and kept on ticking.” I don’t know if it was the perfect thing to do, but it accomplished the goal of reassuring people, and letting them know that we indeed were going to persevere and come out alright.
Mayors and Presidents should never hide and must, by all means, look like they give a damn. It also helps if they look a bit engaged.
An economic Katrina is hitting every state and far too many households. It is man-made, vintage Bush, and we can only wonder how long, oh Lord, how long must we suffer this mixture of incompetence and arrogance that is bringing our nation low.