Marketing TARP

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I just love kiss-and-tell articles by low-level White House staffers.  Especially when they’re in glossy soft-porn lad magazines.  (“Lad magazines”?  I know that’s a Britishism.  But what’s the American equivalent?)

Anyway: today’s K&T blogosphere hit comes from Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for George Bush.  It’s got plenty of good stuff about Bush’s nearly complete lack of understanding of the economic crisis, including this amusing bit about TARP:

As Treasury started to use the bailout funds to invest directly in financial institutions, Ed [Gillespie] wanted to come up with a name for the plan that made it sound better to the public, particularly conservatives who thought this was nothing more than warmed-over socialism. Yes, a catchphrase would solve everything. As we were working on this, Ed called a few of the writers on speakerphone with the idea he’d come up with: the Imperative Investment Intervention. “Oh, that sounds good,” one of us remarked, as the rest of us tried not to laugh.

We decided that if a catchphrase must be deployed, surely we could come up with something better than a tongue twister with the acronym III. We started out with dark humor: the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Capitalism” Plan; the MARX Plan. I suggested that we also apologize to the former Soviet Union and retroactively concede the Cold War. Then one of the writers got serious and came up with the Temporary Emergency Market Protection Program, or TEMP. Not bad as gimmicks go, and Ed liked it. But he decided that instead of dropping it into a speech, we’d leak it to the press that this was the phrase we were using internally. Ed’s logic was that anything Bush said would be ignored, but if the press thought they’d got it from a leak, they’d find it more interesting and newsworthy. TEMP never made it as a catchphrase regardless.

More substantively, Latimer reports that up until someone finally told him directly that he was wrong, Bush was convinced that TARP was a way for Treasury to make a killing by buying cheap bank assets and then making a quick profit off them as soon as the economy recovered.

On the other hand, it turns out that Bush also had a pretty shrewd analysis of Sarah Palin.  Which doesn’t surprise me.  Bush never had much interest in how things actually worked, but he was always the ultimate political animal.  If a mastery of Mayberry Machiavellianism had been enough to get things done, he would have had the most successful presidency of the past century.

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