“You see, we piddle, twiddle, and resolve.
Not one damn thing do we solve.”
— John Adams, explaining the workings of Congress in the musical 1776
The NYT reports that the effectiveness of Congress is not much better 232 years after the obnoxious and disliked founding father John Adams dragged his colleagues kicking and screaming toward the concept of independence from Great Britain.
Yep — the big bailout-scheme meetings yesterday went bust.
The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.
“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.
It was an implosion that spilled out from behind closed doors into public view in a way rarely seen in Washington.
By 10:30 p.m., after another round of talks, Congressional negotiators gave up for the night and said they would try again on Friday. Left uncertain was the fate of the bailout, which the White House says is urgently needed to fix broken financial and credit markets, as well as whether the first presidential debate would go forward as planned Friday night in Mississippi.
“This sucker could go down”… That Dubya is disturbing, but what a hoot.
Apparently, John McCain was unable to be the nation’s economic savior, which begs the question: What was the purpose behind him saying he would suspend his campaign (though the McSame/Ailin’ effort continues)?
[O]nce the doors closed, the smooth-talking House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, surprised many in the room by declaring that his caucus could not support the plan to allow the government to buy distressed mortgage assets from ailing financial companies.
Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.
The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling news conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.
In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.
“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”
Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”
What a waste of time, money, energy and effort — just the thing we need when our representatives are considering shelling out nearly a trillion dollars to buy bad debts from troubled companies. Not cool.
More from John Adams in 1776:
” I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three or more become a Congress! And, by God, I have had this Congress, [which] refuses to grant any of my proposals … Good God, what in Hell are you waiting for?”
Indeed. The failure yesterday of Washington Mutual — the largest bank failure in US history — is yet aother sign that something must be done to keep the nation from economic collapse. This sucker could go down. (Luckily, after the feds seized WaMu’s assets, the savings and loan was sold immediately to JP Morgan Chase, so taxpayers won’t foot the bill for that one, and WaMu won’t be involved in any resulting corporate rescue agreement.)
So, will we see Barack and an empty chair at tonight’s debate? Hard to tell. An email I received 39 minutes ago from the Obama campaign says that the Democrat nominee is all systems go for the Oxford, MS, event. The Commission on Presidential Debates says it is proceeding as planned. Host venue the University of Mississippi says it is all ready. The McCain campaign still insists the GOPper won’t debate if a bailout consensus isn’t reached. And Independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr — who weren’t invited to participate — say they’re ready to fill McCain’s chair if the Republican doesn’t show.
My suggestion, screw the mendacious McCain and invite all the third-party candidates. Make Barack work for it.