Alan Greenspan, whose selective vision we have written about before, appears to have been “shocked, shocked” that tax cuts were contributing to the mounting deficit in the Bush administration. That is, if you believe his just released autobiography The Age of Turbulence. This is a man who, as head of the Fed until just 18 months ago, had nothing but praise for these same deep tax cuts when asked about them before Congress on several occasions. He wanted them made permanent, in fact. He also seemed to have lost his tongue when it came to raising red flags about other aspects of deficit spending that took hold of Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans the likes of which no liberal would have dared attempt. Now both figure prominently as a source of outrage in the mind of the once revered oracle of U.S. monetary policy.
I recall Dr. Greenspan having a similar change of heart when it came to Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which he initially supported along with the White House and both houses of Congress. More recently, however, private citizen Greenspan, who consults regularly to American business, expressed chagrin at the dampening effects of such legislation.
There is a very old toy, still popular with children, called Silly Putty. It is remarkably malleable and can be molded into just about any shape. It is an amusing property for a toy, but not so much for the character of those who hold high office. The public is entitled to expect that its leaders will be forthright in their views when it comes to the responsibilities they hold —not hold back their real thoughts for the best seller list.
How many other momentous events will later turn out to enjoy less support than met the eye at the time? What faulty decisions are being made today in Washington and around the world by figures who could stop them if only they had the courage to speak out. The lessons of Vietnam, and now Iraq, are painful testimony to the consequences of the voices unraised, the silent doubters and those who just could not bother to ask the tough questions.
The world needs leaders who are on the job today, when it matters and when they can effect change for the better, not in the book store telling us about what they really, really sincerely felt —tomorrow.