Fiddling After Rome Burns

Peggy Noonan has a great point about Greenspan's post-career comments in his memoirs:

The book has merits--it is blessedly lucid on how the Fed works and how Fed-heads think--but there is within it a great disconnect. I was thinking about this when I got a note from a former U.S. senator who groused about "the phenomena of high-level public officials 'bravely speaking out' after they have left office." He scored Mr. Greenspan as "perfectly free to have spoken out about the need for the President to veto more spending bills on numerous occasions when he was testifying in public." My correspondent says Mr. Greenspan's "total silence" while in office does not exactly qualify as "bravely speaking out."

The former senator has a point. It can be summed up as: Now you tell us? It doesn't take courage to speak clearly when no one can hurt you. It takes guts to be candid when candor can earn powerful enemies.

U.S. government officials owe the people who pay them, and who have raised them
high--that would be the American taxpayer--real-time wisdom. They owe us their best thinking. Sometimes this is uncomfortable. But that's the price you pay for the car and the honors and the security detail and the special U.S. Army jet that flies you home, alone, across the Atlantic, on the day after 9/11.

This holds true, too, for incumbent politicians who are running for a different office. "I have a plan," said Sen. Kerry. Well, look. You're already on the public dole. If you have a plan, tell us now? Why do we only get to know after you get the new job? (Or, in Greenspan's case, after you lose the old one?)

By the way, Noonan has some fairly unkind words for the Bush administration, words that do not necessarily ring untrue.

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