Fans of the original cast of "Saturday Night Live," will recall Emily Litella, a character played by the late Gilda Radner on the "Weekend Update" segment, hosted by Chevy Chase. Radner, as Litella, delivered the weekly "editorial," during which she opined about some outrage or injustice. In the middle of her rant, Chevy Chase would lean over and whisper the truth in her ear, after which Radner would turn to the camera and sheepishly say, "never mind."
Alan Greenspan played Emily Litella last week when he testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a name that invokes George Orwell at his best. Oversight and reform are "Newspeak" for what this committee has failed to offer, especially when it comes to the behavior that led to the current financial meltdown.
"I made a mistake," said Greenspan, four words that almost never cross the lips of anyone while serving in office. Members of the committee, who had both feared and revered Greenspan when the Golden Goose was laying so many eggs, turned on him like Lex Luthor turns on a Superman weakened by kryptonite.
Were all those rosy scenarios Greenspan once painted solely his fault, or should Congress share the blame for rarely questioning his judgment? The Washington Post said Greenspan was once viewed as "the infallible architect of U.S. prosperity." The newspaper said Congress treated Greenspan "as an oracle." This is religious language, requiring a type of blind faith, or at least more faith than anyone should place in another human being.
Congress loves to get on its high horse when things go wrong. This is partly to divert attention from its own failed responsibility. Like the suckers who once believed the 19th-century snake oil salesmen -- "step right up ladies and gentlemen; this magical potion will cure everything from dandruff to athlete's foot, all for just one American dollar" -- many members of Congress were all too eager to shell out whatever it might take to keep voters fat and happy. They were enablers and co-conspirators and share the blame for their failure to provide proper oversight, especially to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Notice how, when things came tumbling down, Greenspan, the now former chairman of the Federal Reserve, becomes the scapegoat.
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