HOW THE ‘MAESTRO’ HAS FALLEN
William Greider writes: While it is not exactly news that Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspanhas fallen from his state of infallible grace, the New York Times headline on April 2 still caused a rush: “Suddenly, Critics Are Taking Aim at Greenspan.” When the Times announces this on its front page, it means Icarus is definitely losing altitude in elite opinion. The article itself was quite gentle, given the harsh things Wall Street traders and Main Street investors are saying about the chairman. Nevertheless, the report will perhaps embolden some members of Congress to begin a tougher inquiry. Why exactly did Greenspan launch his campaign against the economy back in 1999, steadily raising interest rates until the expansion faltered, then swooned? If he was slyly attempting to pop the stock-market bubble, he certainly succeeded. But in that case, why did he not use the Federal Reserve’s credit-control mechanisms much earlier to contain the speculation before it unhinged economic balance? These and other questions about Fed policy ought to be examined by Congressional investigation, now that the maestro’s baton is broken.
HISS & CHAMBERS: TRAFFICKING IN HISTORY
No sooner did “The Alger Hiss Story” premiere on the web (www.nyu.edu/hiss) and at a launch party in the Tamiment Library at New York University recently, than assorted sectarians–Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard and other cold warriors who have yet to lay down their arms–leaped into the fray. Why bother with a pro-Hiss website, asked the Standard (pointing out that the Nation Institute was one of its facilitators), when Whittaker Chambers’s “monumental” book Witness tells you all you need to know about the case? Hiss’s son, Tony, archivist Jeff Kisseloff and assorted scholars who helped build the site made clear at the launch their joint goal: a site that makes the case for the defense but will ultimately be the definitive depository of documents and scholarly research related to the case. One of the peculiarities of the post-cold war period is that those who keep vociferously proclaiming each new archival find the final nail in Hiss’s coffin never seem willing to examine the evidence too closely. Truth be told, the Standard would prefer to let the case rest with Chambers, whose farm, his last resting place, was declared, over the objections of the National Park Service, a National Historic Landmark by the Reagan Administration in 1988. Perhaps traffic will decide the matter. When last asked, the Park Service estimated to historian Jon Wiener that two people a year go there. Maybe the Hiss website can do better.
NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW
What was the story of Dan Rather’s accidental appearance at a Democratic fundraiser in Texas doing on the front page of the April 4 Washington Post? If Rather unknowingly appeared at such an event, that’s news, though perhaps not as big a story as Fox anchor Tony Snow’s knowingly writing for an official GOP website. Rather was drawn into the appearance by an old friend and by his daughter, who appears to be considering a political career. Should he have looked into it more carefully before agreeing to show up? Surely. Should he have left once he discovered the nature of the gathering? That’s arguable.What’s odd, though, is that the Post believes that in the midst of a crisis with China and a collapse in the stock market, Rather’s appearance at a local Texas event was front-page news. Could its front-page treatment of Rather, long a bête noire of the right, be an effort to distance itself from the “liberal media” the Bush people have been shunning recently? Much the same kind of sucking-up by the Post and other papers happened during the Reagan Administration twenty years ago, and believe us, it’s no prettier today.