All over Wall Street, people keep hoping -- and praying -- that Washington will be their savior. That is despite the fact that the Federal Reserve has so far failed to achieve many of its goals and the programs put forth by Congress, the Treasury Department and various federal agencies have accomplished very little. Some would say the overriding problem is a failure of leadership. Based on the following report from the International Herald Tribune's Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Bush Appears Out of Touch on U.S. Economic Woes," they may have a point.
The first hint that President George W. Bush might be detached from the nation's economic woes was in February, when he conceded that he had not heard about predictions of $4-a-gallon gasoline.
Then Bush went to Wall Street to warn against "massive government intervention in the housing markets," two days before his administration helped broker the takeover of the investment bank Bear Stearns.
Now Bush is in Eastern Europe, one of eight foreign trips he is taking this year. As he delivered his farewell address to NATO on Wednesday, Senate Democrats and Republicans were scrambling to produce a bill to help struggling homeowners, the kind of government intervention Bush had cautioned against.
For a man who came into office as America's first MBA president, Bush has sometimes seemed invisible during the housing and credit crunch. As the economy eclipses Iraq as the top issue on most voters' minds, even some Republican allies of the president say Bush is being eclipsed and is in danger of looking out of touch.
"He's over there arguing about who should get into NATO, and the American people are focused on what's in their pocketbooks," said Kenneth Duberstein, who was chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan in Reagan's second term. "He has talked about the economy, but it is not viewed as being a satisfactory response. Unfortunately, the lasting image is of not knowing of $4-a-gallon gas."
With the nation riveted by the race to succeed him, it is growing increasingly difficult for Bush to command the national stage. In addition to being upstaged by the candidates, Bush has ceded his bully pulpit on the economy to other Washington figures, including congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
While Bush was in Romania on Wednesday, Bernanke was on Capitol Hill delivering a far more pessimistic vision of the economy than the president - who has said the country faces "a rough patch" - has allowed.
When the White House announced its plan to overhaul the financial regulatory system, it was Paulson, not Bush, who did the talking.