NBC Highlights Greenspan's GOP-Bashing -- And His Bathtub Romance?

September 18th, 2007 6:28 AM

As Brent Baker noted, NBC’s Matt Lauer claimed the "liberal bloggers" were going to have a field day with Alan Greenspan’s new memoir – especially the remarks critical of Bush. But before the bloggers jumped, the whole Bush-bashing publicity cycle began with the Dinosaur Media. Their field day began with the newspapers, in particular, Bob Woodward at the Washington Post (noted here on NB by Matthew Sheffield), and continued in the usual network television bashing cycle, starting with "60 Minutes" on CBS. NBC's "Today" demonstrated its routine appetite to inflict another bad-news bruising on the GOP.

Lauer also no doubt disappointed Greenspan at the end by Lauer getting excessively chummy and personal about his marriage to NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, asking him about his claim that he gets his best ideas in the bathtub. "Trying to set aside that image, mental image, for a second, what, what, what is, what is the best idea you ever had in the bathtub?" Greenspan: "Ask my wife to marry me." Lauer cracked: "Was she in the bathtub at the time?"

Matt Lauer began Monday’s edition of Today with this blurb: "Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan rattles with Washington with his new memoir taking direct aim at the, the President and the Republican Party. This morning, he's here for a live interview." In a profile of Greenspan, Maria Bartiromo added: "Greenspan is a self-described, lifelong libertarian Republican, which is why his critical words about the GOP in his new memoir are so powerful. Greenspan writes that Republicans have 'swapped principle for power,' and 'deserved to lose,' the 2006 elections."

In those words, Greenspan sounds like many conservatives who believe the Bush team made a weak effort to restrain federal spending. But Lauer and his colleagues never make the mental leap to consider that the spending bills are sent by Congress, and the biggest, most ambitious spenders in Congress are the Democrats. (They certainly don’t include in the spending equation that the siren-blaring first responders to the proposal of any social spending restraint are the media, spotlighting potential victims who will be allegedly eating dog food or going without health care or other assorted hardships due to heartless spending "slashers.") In fact, on Monday, Lauer didn’t quote the liberal bloggers against Greenspan, but the liberal columnists of the dinosaur media, in this case, Paul Krugman of the New York Times:

LAUER: Alright let, let me read you a little bit more about your criticism of the fiscal policies of the Bush administration. You write, "To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't confront approach was a major mistake. It cost the nation a check-and-balance mechanism essential to fiscal discipline." You go on to say, quote, "My biggest frustration remained the President's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending." Paul Krugman in this morning's New York Times, takes you to task. He says this, 'Mr. Greenspan has just published a book in which he castigates the Bush administration for its fiscal irresponsibility. Well I'm sorry but that criticism comes six years late and trillion dollars short. Mr. Greenspan now says he didn't mean to give the Bush tax cut a green light and he was surprised at the political reaction to his remarks."

GREENSPAN: That was, if I may say so, a bit of a distortion. If you read the testimonies I gave in that period it's perfectly clear what position I was taking with respect to the tax cut. I thought the structure of the tax cut was fine but it had to be paid for. And there's where my criticism is. It's not on the tax cut, it's on the fact that spending is not being funded.

LAUER: I guess though, people listen to a book, they read a book that comes out after your term as, as chairman of the Federal Reserve, and they say it sounds like you're being much more vocal in your criticism now. Did you hold your tongue, to some degree, while you were chairman of the Federal Reserve. Did you have to?

GREENSPAN: No, actually on the issue of fiscal policy people just weren't listening to what I was saying. I'm not saying anything different from what I said back then. Indeed I went through testimony after testimony, with glassy-eyed Congressmen and Senators out there, as I said, we're running into a fiscal train wreck. Did they respond? No.

LAUER: And yet, as you heard in, in Maria's set-up piece there, there are some claim, who claim that you did not see a fiscal train-wreck coming in the housing bubble and in the credit crunch. And they say because you kept mortgage rates so low, for those years, back in the early part, just four or five years ago that we now face the issues that we face today. Blame? Do you accept some of it?


LAUER: None?


LAUER: Should you have seen it coming?

GREENSPAN: No. Here's the issue. Look, the United States is, got a housing bubble. So has probably 20 to 30 other countries around the world, all caused by the same thing - this global, sharp decline in long term interest rates, specifically mortgage rates. Everybody's got the same problem. In Britain and Australia. And the point here, is that we tried actually to get mortgage rates up. We failed, and the reason we failed is that the global forces are overwhelming.

It could not be said that Lauer provided an interview full of softballs. Instead, Lauer came at Greenspan from the left, suggesting that he should have been a more full-throated advocate against the Bush administration. The end of the interview was also a little harsh on the old central banker, mocking his bathing habits:

LAUER: And finally, in this book, you wrote, quote, 'To this day the bathtub is where I get many of my best ideas. Trying to set aside that image, mental image, for a second, what, what, what is, what is the best idea you ever had in the bathtub?

GREENSPAN: Ask my wife to marry me.

LAUER: Was she in the bathtub at the time? [Laughter] Trying also to keep that mental image out of things. Alan Greenspan. Doctor, thanks. Nice to have you here.

But Greenspan’s ties to NBC also made for cozy publicity arrangements. Lauer announced that CNBC would run an hour-long special on Greenspan and his new book on Monday night in prime time.