- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Let’s play “Jeopardy.”

Answer: This news event triggered the following headlines. “Greenspan faults Bush in book; ex-Fed chief: politics trumped.” “Former Fed chair Greenspan criticizes Bush in book.” “In new book, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan bashes Bush.” “Greenspan book criticizes Bush and Republicans — ‘They deserved to lose.’ ” “Greenspan is critical of Bush in memoir; former Fed chairman has praise for Clinton.” “Greenspan decries course of Bush and GOP in new book.”

Question: What is the publication of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book?

The headlines provide yet another glaring example of the liberal bias of the traditional press. For the headlines leave the reader wondering. Mr. Greenspan criticized Mr. Bush about what? His tax cuts? The sluggish federal response to Katrina? The war in Iraq? The alleged constitutional abuses in connection with the war on terror? The Bush position on immigration reform? No Child Left Behind? The prescription benefit bill for seniors? What?

But, in fact, Mr. Greenspan criticized Mr. Bush — and congressional Republicans — for excessive spending. How about a headline like “Ex-Fed chair says Bush spends too much,” or “Greenspan says Bush failed to rein in spending,” or “Republicans spend like Democrats says ex-Fed chair”? Why, you ask, did headlines not say that?

The actual headlines accomplish two things. The traditional media can gleefully report on another Bush “defection,” reinforcing the notion of near-universal unhappiness with Mr. Bush and his “failed presidency.” But second, and more importantly, it protects Democrats. How? Take the excesses of the Bush administration — examine the nondefense, nonhomeland security, nonautomatic pilot “entitlement program” expenses like Medicare and Social Security.

Mr. Bush’s excesses then consist of No Child Left Behind, the prescription benefit bill for seniors, and the pork-riddled highway and energy bills. In each case, Democrats criticized Bush for not spending more.

Democrats criticized No Child Left Behind, but not for its enactment. Instead they call the program “insufficiently funded.” They similarly criticize the Bush prescription benefit bill for seniors because of the so-called “donut hole,” which included certain seniors. In other words, Mr. Bush insufficiently funded the bill. And on the energy and highway bills, both parties larded them up with so-called earmarks. So if you scratch the surface, Mr. Greenspan actually says if you think Republicans are bad, wait until you get a load of the Democrats.

The liberal media also grabbed hold of Mr. Greenspan’s claim President Bill Clinton’s 1993 economic plan demonstrated “courage.” Huh? Mr. Clinton raised the top marginal tax rate from former President George H.W. Bush’s 31 percent to 40 percent. Yet Mr. Greenspan supported, while most Democrats opposed, President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. He even supported making the tax cuts permanent.

But back to excessive spending. Check out the health care schemes of Sens. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat. They wish to partially fund their programs by repealing, or allowing to expire, the Bush tax cuts, while adding a tax increase on the “rich.”

Mr. Greenspan, who calls himself a “libertarian Republican,” recently said Mrs. Clinton “wouldn’t be a bad president.” But how can any self-respecting libertarian Republican support her recently announced $110 billion universal health care program? It mandates health insurance for every American. By the way, when asked whether her plan includes illegal aliens, a Clinton spokeswoman said, “That’s one we’re going to have to think through a little bit.” Oh.

Does this “libertarian Republican” who called Bill Clinton’s tax increases “courage” remember former President George H.W. Bush’s pledge not to raise taxes? He raised taxes, but later said he regretted it. Does Mr. Greenspan remember that President Reagan, too, raised taxes, and also later said he regretted doing so?

The libertarian Republican’s praise of Mr. Clinton seems philosophically inconsistent on another level. Has Mr. Greenspan forgotten about Mr. Clinton’s attempt at a government takeover of health care, one-seventh of the nation’s economy? Republicans stopped him. Does Mr. Greenspan remember Mr. Clinton’s attempt to push through a multibillion-dollar “economic stimulus plan”? Republicans stopped him. Even Bill Clinton, in giving a speech before some wealthy donors in Houston, said he “raised your taxes too much.” (After criticism, Mr. Clinton later said he regretted saying he regretted raising taxes.)

So here’s the drill. Traditional media rush to use Mr. Greenspan to batter Mr. Bush. Then they downplay Mr. Greenspan’s essential charge — that government spends too much. They top it off by showing a complete lack of curiosity as to how a self-described “libertarian Republican” can simultaneously support the Bill Clinton tax hikes and the George W. Bush tax cuts.

Confused? The solution is simply not to delve too deeply. That’s why we have headlines.

Larry Elder is a nationally syndicated columnist and a radio talk-show host and author.

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