Darth Vader’s Fingerprints on the Garbage Pail

The LA Times has an interesting piece today on Paulson’s botched sales job on the bailout/rescue package. (h/t Yglesias).

Clearly, the White House’s strategy here was tin-eared. Not only did it not reach out to interest groups and Congress, but it wrote a plan that just gave the Executive untrammeled and unreviewable authority to play with the economy.

Hmmmm….botched political strategy? In order to give the Executive massive and unreviewable power? Where have I seen that before?

The original bill had Cheney’s and Addington’s fingerprints all over it. It’s vintage Cheney: just charge ahead and take command to make the “tough calls” and the reaction be damned. And often his incompetence shows through. As Gellman reports in his book, it was Cheney who refused to negotiate with Jim Jeffords, leading to the short Dem takeover of the Senate in 2001. It was Cheney who pushed ahead with his energy task force, making absurd claims for Presidential power and achieving nothing. Gellman also reveals that Cheney had initially persuaded Bush to certify the NSA wiretapping program himself, which would have led to dozens of of DOJ officials resigning. (Bush backed down after recognizing that the political fallout in an election year could be fatal.).

LIttle wonder that it was Cheney who went to the Hill in the middle of last week to try to get House Republicans in line.

Cheney’s strength, Gellman notes, was that he knows exactly what he wants and will always try to get there. As Paul Krugman has rightfully remarked, this is an administration that tried to use crises, not to solve them.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.