Jonah Goldberg

"While there are significant long-term risks associated with such contractual arrangements, the well-informed actor, motivated by some historically recognized intangibilities - maximization of regalement, binary association, et al. - finds that those outweigh the downside risks. To wit, would you - exigencies and externalities permitting - enter into a matrimonial association of indefinite duration with me?"

That's not a direct quote, of course, just my speculation. But on Sunday's "60 Minutes" profile of Alan Greenspan, we learned that the former Fed chairman dated NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell for 13 years before asking her to marry him. "He used Fed-speak," Mitchell recalled. "Who knew he was proposing? I couldn't figure it out."

Greenspan observers were similarly befuddled by a seemingly plain-spoken statement in his memoir, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World."

Greenspan wrote that the Iraq war is "largely about oil," according to an excerpt in the Washington Post on Saturday. The statement quickly raced around the globe, with headlines like this one from Britain's Daily Telegraph: "Iraq was about oil - Greenspan attacks U.S. motivation for war." The Independent began its own editorial by declaring: "The credibility of President George Bush's policy on Iraq has suffered another devastating blow. It is all the more powerful for having come not from a political enemy but from someone who was showered with plaudits by the administration."

The quoted phrase ran through the Sunday news shows and the blogosphere like a bad intestinal virus. On CNN's "Late Edition," Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) was asked if he agreed with Greenspan. "To a very large extent I agree with him, and I think it is very remarkable that it took Alan Greenspan all these many years and being out of office (to state) the obvious."

Well, that is very interesting. But first we should clear the air about something. Greenspan claims that the quote was taken out of context. Greenspan told the Post - Bob Woodward, no less - that, in fact, he didn't think the White House was motivated by oil. Rather, he was. A Post story Monday explained that Greenspan had long favored Saddam Hussein's ouster because the Iraqi dictator was a threat to the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world's oil passes every day. Hussein could have sent the price of oil way past $100 a barrel, which would have inflicted chaos on the global economy.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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