Just when the thought of Bill Clinton as President was making us feel warm and cuddly about George Bush, Treasury Secretary Nick Brady reminds us how warm and cuddly Bill Clinton would be, compared to another four years of Nick Brady as President. Brady remains in total control of economic policymaking through his ability to pull the President's chain. Every growth initiative that appears anywhere in the Administration is stamped out as soon as Brady gets wind of it. There will be no rocking the boat with a line-item veto as Brady does not want to inconvenience his pork barrel, check-bouncing friends in Congress. Brady yesterday told the National Press Club that the Treasury and Justice Department lawyers say it's not possible to index capital gains by executive order, although the statute seems pretty clear. I'm advised the Justice Department official who offered to write an opinion supporting the action has been reprimanded.
We and the bond market took some encouragement last week when Clayton Yeutter publicly supported the Fed and Chairman Alan Greenspan's focus on long-term interest rates. The Fed governors went around smiling for a few days and the 30-year Treasury bond smiled as well. On Wednesday, though, President Bush was asked at a press conference what he thought of the Fed tending to long-term interest rates. Parroting Brady, the President pooh-poohed the importance of long rates and said "growth" was more important. The bond market dropped like a stone and continues to unravel. What can we expect with a President and Treasury Secretary who continue to thumb their snoots at the nation's creditors? Having produced a stinko recession that has driven the federal deficit toward $400 billion, they now tell prospective bond buyers at home and abroad that they do not give a hoot about the nation's credit. The Fed governors I talked to were dumbfounded. It takes them weeks of patient tending of the bond market to get it settled but only a minute or two of Nick Brady, and they have to start over again.
There is no reason to pay any attention to the tax bill as it moves along in the Senate. With Brady in control, there is no effort to produce legislation that can be signed by the President. Brady didn't want a tax bill to begin with. He would prefer there be no tax bills next year either. He doesn't want the President to undertake any economic initiatives after he vetoes the bill that will be sent to him next Friday. According to folks on the campaign staff, Brady doesn't want the President to make the economy an issue in the fall campaign and will try to stamp out any supply-side initiatives that might emerge at the GOP convention in Houston. Tony Snow, the only supply-sider near the President for the last year, has been removed as chief speechwriter and relegated to writing op-ed articles that may or may not appear in obscure newspapers.
The only voice that has been raised against Brady is that of Florida Senator Connie Mack, who has publicly urged the dismissal of Brady. Brady raised a fuss with the President and called the Vice President, demanding that something be done about Mack. Quayle, who almost certainly believes Brady has been a disaster, was assigned to call Mack and admonish him, which he did, gently. Independent GOP campaign operatives, like Jeff Bell and Ed Rollins, have publicly recommended against the dismissal of Brady, on the grounds that it would show "panic" by the President. Pat Buchanan has not said a word of criticism of Brady that we can find on the wires, instead running around denouncing RNC Chairman Rich Bond, who has not done any damage to the economy or to the American workingman or woman, last time we looked. Syndicated columnist Edwin Yoder, the quintessence of mossback Republicanism, now writes that Brady is absolutely indispensable to the President and to the nation, as he, more than anyone else, understands the great damage that Reagan and the supply-siders did to the U.S. economy.
The Bush re-election campaign, we hear, will make believe the economy will not be an issue come fall. The staff work is drifting toward a celebration of conservative "social values." This is based on the assumption that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and another batch of girls will spill out of his closet. Just when I began to feel warmer about Clinton as President, with or without the girls, I read Paul Gigot's column this morning in The Wall Street Journal, which tells more than I want to know about Hillary Clinton. It seems Hillary really wears the pants in the family, as her hubby can't seem to keep them on anyway. I'd heard this was some kind of liberal lady, maybe even as dizzy as Geraldine Ferraro or Pat Schroeder. According to Gigot, Hillary is well ahead of that pack, and tough as nails to boot. She's an advocate, for goodness sakes, of a "children's rights' movement," giving kids the legal right to sue their parents.
This is the picture from the Treasury and White House at the current moment. Pat Buchanan has flamed out, so there is nowhere for Republicans to go between now and the convention. Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, so there will be no place for Republicans to go after the convention. Why do anything at all? The Cold War is over. Russia is falling apart. Japan is practically in recession. Europe can't get its act together. There's nothing to worry about! Nick Brady may be right! Preserve the spending caps. Freeze the tax code. Seal the firewall between foreign and domestic budgets. Put Treasury on automatic pilot. Cast the whole country in bronze, including the unemployed and the homeless. Fire up the cigarette boat and wheel out the golf carts. Let the good times roll at the Kennebunkport Country Club. This is as good as it gets.