Robert Novak

Greenspan's book ignores Reagan's tax-cutting supply-side movement as if it never happened. Seeing no inherent benefits from a lower tax burden, he accepts the Democratic deficit-reduction formula that a dollar of higher taxes is equivalent to a dollar of reduced spending.

With the memoir retreating from his passive endorsement of George W. Bush's 2001 tax cuts, it is hard to tell the Greenspan of this book from a conventional Democrat. He depicts his favorite colleague in the younger Bush's administration as the dysfunctional Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who opposed tax-cut strategy while ruining morale in his department.

The tip-off to Greenspan's mindset is his reference to Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad as a "fiscal conservative." Avowed deficit hawk Conrad's advocacy of high taxes and high spending gave him a 16 percent rating last year from the National Taxpayers Union.

Though Greenspan's memoir makes him a virtual Clinton administration member, he describes himself as a reluctant public servant -- which runs counter to my firsthand observations. He writes that he turned down a job in the Nixon administration but in fact was rejected by the new president's staff because of his 1968 campaign performance. (Temporarily exiled to political Siberia, a distraught Greenspan was reduced to scheduling breakfast with me on his visits from New York to Washington.) His book shows him reluctantly accepting Reagan's appointment as Fed chairman in 1987, but in fact he aggressively promoted himself for the job. (He approached me at a Washington reception that year to say he had heard I opposed his appointment, and asked me why.)

"The Age of Turbulence" lacks the confessional candor of the best memoirs, but it tells enough to leave intriguing questions for a future biographer. Why did three Republican presidents name a Federal Reserve chairman fundamentally opposed to the GOP's economic doctrine? Did Greenspan deceive them?

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

©Creators Syndicate