(Or a big part of it anyway)
I sat next to Ben Bernanke for almost three years at the FOMC table when he served as a Fed Governor. This was before he became Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors and later returned as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, appointed by President Bush. The cliché, "a gentleman and a scholar," was surely coined to describe Ben Bernanke. He seemed to be the quintessential Ivy League, high I.Q. nerd. I saw no bully in him. No attitude. Just a gentleman and a scholar.
He shocked me when he told me he was from South Carolina and had worked at South of the Border. I grew up in neighboring North Georgia and was familiar with South of the Border. As I recall, snakes were one of the tourist attractions. We had more in common than I ever dreamed, except, of course, for the high I.Q. and SAT scores. Not that he ever mentioned either. I inferred his high I.Q. from his career progression- which obviously required high-powered math skills- and learned of his almost-perfect SAT scores from a network TV special.
A digression: I once thought I'd caught a glimpse of my I.Q. score across the table from my high-school records and was very pleased with myself- until I discovered the number was my weight rather than my I.Q. So, I don't know officially. On two occasions during my Fed career when it seemed like all my colleagues were on the wrong side of an issue that seemed obvious to me, I considered the possibility that I might be the dumb one and bought a self- take I.Q. test from the book store to check myself out. They were inconclusive given the difference between being smart and being wrong, but the experience did leave me feeling better about myself. I've had a third "pocket IQ test on my desk for a year now unopened. I guess I don't want to push my luck.
Anyway, that was a digression. This is about Ben Bernanke, whose intelligence and integrity- and memory- are not in question in my mind.
However, most frustrating to me is the cynical question, so what? As I indicated to Larry Kudlow in the interview posted two-days ago, so what if he played hardball in the cause of holding the financial system and the economy together. The fall and winter of 2008 was a national emergency the equivalent of war. If he- and Ken Lewis-did what they had to do in the national interest, I applaud them both. In any case, TARP money was provided to make the deal work, and present indications are that it is working well.
Somehow, this reminds me of the news over the week-end that the CIA may have had a secret plan to deal with terrorists. Well, duh! Shame on them if they hadn't. Both are examples of no good deed going unpunished.