There was a joke going around conservative circles during the mid-1960s that we conservatives were warned that if we voted for Barry Goldwater, America would get deeper into the Vietnam War. The punch line was that we did vote for Goldwater and America did get deeper into Vietnam. (Of course, President Lyndon Johnson had campaigned on that warning, and then it was he who got us deeper in.)
I couldn't help thinking of that old joke Monday. It had been only Friday that members of the House had been warned that if they voted against the $700 billion bailout, the world's stock exchanges would crash. Well, 171 representatives did vote no (though the bill passed anyway), and sure enough, on Monday, from Moscow to London to Paris to Frankfurt to Asia to New York, the markets of the world did crash.
Moreover, by Monday, experts were divided on why the markets were going down and what should be done about it. I was in a hotel room in Santa Fe, N.M., waiting to give a luncheon speech. All morning, I couldn't take my eyes off CNBC's coverage of the worldwide market crashes. What caught my attention (along with the vertiginous market drops taking place) was that the opinions of many of the world's leading financial experts and practitioners ranged between conflicting certainties and admitted bafflement at both causes and solutions.
There were several experts who said the market crashes indicated that the $700 billion bailout was judged insufficient. Many others argued that the market crashes had nothing to do with the bailout but rather were reactions to the increasing evidence of economic contraction around the world. Particular attention was paid by a few experts to the news that China would not be importing any gasoline next month, which they said was evidence that China's economy (and therefore Asia's economy) also would be contracting.
Others pointed to Europe's banks -- which only last week had been predicted loudly by elite Europeans to be safe from financial contagion -- suffering contagion from New York's financial disease.
Experts were equally conflicted over cures. There was a large group of confident-sounding experts asserting that what was needed was an immediate worldwide coordinated interest rate drop of 100 basis points by the central banks of the world. But for each such assertion, there was another confident-sounding expert firmly pointing out that the problem wasn't the price or quantity of money at banks but rather that the banks were sitting on their cash instead of lending it because they didn't trust any borrowers -- including fellow banks.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.