Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON -- America's economic crisis has become a political crisis -- with the second now compounding and exceeding the first.

In the last few days we have witnessed something extraordinary: the revolt of ideology against authority, even against reality. The Bastille of establishment opinion has been stormed and taken, at least temporarily. But the revolution has irresponsibility in its soul.

Seldom has America's governing elite been more united in response to a national challenge. The president, the secretary of the Treasury and the chairman of the Federal Reserve were adamant about the need for government to purchase illiquid assets that are clogging the arteries of the credit markets. The leadership of both parties in both houses of Congress, after some reasonable modifications, endorsed the plan. Both presidential candidates also supported it -- one suspending his campaign to push for it. Even young conservative firebrands in the House such as Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, after gaining significant concessions, came to reluctantly embrace it.

The consensus included everyone who matters -- except 133 mainly conservative House Republicans, along with 95 Democrats, who combined to destroy it.

There can now be little doubt that Nancy Pelosi has an unrivaled record for lacking achievement. In retrospect, it seems incomprehensible that Democrats chose a grating, partisan, San Francisco liberal to lead both parties in the House. During the bailout debate, Pelosi used her last breath to channel the shade of Henry Wallace, attacking conservative economics as a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation." When one thinks of the skills of the speaker of the House, (BEG ITAL)rubbing your face in it before a vital vote(END ITAL) is not usually high on the list. House conservatives were insulted -- then watched as some of Pelosi's committee chairmen and closest political associates voted against the bill. Seeing Democrats saving their political hides provided little encouragement for Republicans to risk their own.

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
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