THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
POLITICAL DIARY ONLINE
Friday, November 14, 2008
by Brendan Miniter
"When you can get a high government official not killing a rally, that's helpful."
Such was the genuine if ironic accolade from Art Cashen, head of NYSE floor operations for UBS and veteran CNBC market commentator. He was referring not to the latest ad hockery from Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, which has repeatedly discombobulated the markets, but the clear and certain trumpet sounded by President Bush in defending capitalism amid the current financial crisis.
Displaying the guy who once was able to win two presidential elections, Mr. Bush traveled to New York yesterday to remind the investing public about government's own role in creating the subprime mess and point out that prosperity would not be restored by treating the private sector as the enemy. His comments came as the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced one of its biggest daily turnarounds ever, ending up 552 points.
Mr. Bush seemed intent not only on shoring up Republicans who will have to resist untrammeled Democrats trying to enact a wishlist likely to be hostile to private enterprise. He also seemed to take an indirect poke at this year's GOP nominee John McCain, when he observed that "voices from the left and right are equating the free enterprise system with greed and exploitation and failure."
"History has shown that the greater threat to economic prosperity is not too little involvement in the market, it is too much government involvement in the market," he said, pointing out what should be obvious from 2000 years of commercial life even amid the unhappy experience of the last 18 months.
Mr. Bush may be a lame duck, but he infused new spirit in Republicans who've lately been nonplussed over how to defend their values while also defending the energetic interventions of a Republican administration. Mr. Bush made clear that an unusual emergency requires unusual steps, but also that growth and opportunity won't come back if Washington now puts its foot on the neck of the private sector. His speech was a reminder that the battle over free markets isn't lost yet. The fight is only now being joined.
-- Brendan Miniter