Frank Rich can be infuriating at times with his often smary, insider approach to politics, but in yesterday’s column, he was dead on with this summation:
As our outgoing president passes the buck for his failures — all that bad intelligence — so do leaders in the private and public sectors who enabled the economic debacle. [Phil] Gramm has put the blame for the subprime fiasco on “predatory borrowers.” [Robert] Rubin has blamed a “perfect storm” of economic factors, as has Sam Zell, the magnate who bought and maimed the Tribune newspapers in a highly leveraged financial stunt that led to a bankruptcy filing last week. Donald Trump has invoked a standard “act of God” clause to avoid paying a $40 million construction loan on his huge new project in Chicago.
After a while they all start to sound like O. J. Simpson, who when at last held accountable for some of his behavior told a Las Vegas judge this month, “In no way did I mean to hurt anybody.” Or perhaps they are channeling Donald Rumsfeld, whose famous excuse for his failure to secure post-invasion Iraq, “Stuff happens,” could be the epitaph of our age.
Our next president, like his predecessor, is promising “a new era of responsibility and accountability.” We must hope he means it. Meanwhile, we have the governor he leaves behind in Illinois to serve as our national whipping boy, the one betrayer of the public trust who could actually end up paying for his behavior. The surveillance tapes of Blagojevich are so fabulous it seems a tragedy we don’t have similar audio records of the bigger fish who have wrecked the country. But in these hard times we’ll take what we can get.
Rich also gets it right when he notes in an earlier part of the column that Gramm was one of John McCain’s primary economics advisers and Rubin has that some role for President-Elect Obama.