The Failure of "Because I Say So"

LONDON -- Over dinner last night, i was trying to explain to a British friend why the majority of House Republicans fled the bailout bill compromise. Reading the polls, it's easy to understand why those with the most hotly contested elections this November were the least eager to sign up for the bill. But, in surveying the wreckage, one fact became clear: the credit crisis was exacerbated by a credibility crisis.

It's easy for Americans to look at President Bush -- he of the 935 lies in the Iraq war runup--and Henry Paulson, the Goldman Sachs-bred Treasury Secretary -- and say, "prove it" regarding the dire predictions of doom if a bailout doesn't occur. As an American typically ignorant of the arcane ways of the financial wizards, what was missing for me in the scare talk last week was somebody who could put the danger in concrete terms: a businessman, say (as opposed to a financier), who could tell me how lack of credit would prevent him from stocking up on new inventory or meeting payrolls. An administration marked by profound arrogance (hello, Mr. Cheney) sent a financier to Congress to demand unprecedented power for a financier, and the scare talk sounded familiar and empty. It's the boy who cried Wolfowitz.

Somehow, if the danger is that real and that near, somebody with a shred of credibility and some real skin in the game has to stand up and tell us exactly what's in the alleged abyss. The administration's failure to understand that fact is telling and profound.