Thursday, October 02, 2008

Anything but Clinton

One of Bill Clinton's crazy ideas as a young President was that there was an imbalance between advice the president receives on national security and economic policy. The former had a high level national security council with a national security adviser ensuring that the president was receiving integrated and coherent advice on security issues. There was nothing like it for economics. So Bill established a "National Economic Council" (NEC) and put heavyweights in the position of its director, making them equivalent to the National Security Adviser. It was a serious job.

Then along came Bush, and the NEC and its Director has been a troubled story. The first holder of the job, Larry Lindsey, got canned for saying that the Iraq war could cost a lot more than the free lunch estimates that were circulating in the run-up to it. Then came Stephen Friedman, notable for being yet another example of the Goldman Sachs connections to the White House, and Amanda Peet's father-in-law.

And now the current occupant of the job, Keith Hennessey, notable for writing a Ph.D. thesis bashing the Clinton healthcare plan and then moving up through the ranks of Republic operative positions to NEC director. Here's the webpage of the NEC. It's his bio. It doesn't link to anything else. And yet think about what economic policy involves now at a time of financial crisis: the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and various other government departments and agencies.

Mightn't it be useful for the president to have a mechanism to get everyone in the same room and to get a unified message from them? Unless Bush's goal is not to bring economic policy up to the level of national security, but to lower them both to the standard of Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley. Mission Accomplished!

UPDATE: By way of comparison, Gordon Brown is thinking about establishing an economic emergency committee modeled on the structure for other crises, Cobra.

FINAL UPDATE: Gordon Brown is stealing our material.

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