Peggy Noonan: A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting

The day after the report I heard from a young Naval aviator in predeployment training north of San Diego. He flies a Super Hornet, sister ship to the plane that went down. He said the Marine investigation “kept me up last night” because of how it contrasted with “the buck-passing we see” in the government and on Wall Street. He and his squadron were in range of San Diego television stations when they carried the report’s conclusions live. He’d never seen “our entire wardroom crowded around a television” before. They watched “with bated breath.” At the end they were impressed with the public nature of the criticism, and its candor: “There are still elements within the government that take personal responsibility seriously.” He found himself wondering if the Marines had been “too hard on themselves.” “But they are, after all, Marines.”

By contrast, he says, when the economy came crashing down, “nowhere did we see a board come out and say: ‘This is what happened, these are the decisions these particular people made, and this was the result. They are no longer a part of our organization.’ There was no timeline of events or laymen’s explanation of how a credit derivative was actually derived. We did not see congressmen get on television with charts and eviscerate their organization and say, ‘These were the men who in 2003 allowed Freddie and Fannie unlimited rein over mortgage securities.’ Instead we saw . . . everybody against everybody else with no one stepping forth and saying, ‘We screwed up.'” There is no one in national leadership who could convincingly “assign blame,” and no one “who could or would accept it.”

Read it all or you may also find it here.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government

10 comments on “Peggy Noonan: A Tragedy of Errors, and an Accounting

  1. mhmac13 says:

    Peggy Noonan once again is right on the mark. The disconnect between those supposedly “responsible” for the affairs of state in this country have let us all down by pathetic finger-pointing, evasion of the facts and a total disregard for the responsibilities that have caused our current economic mess.
    They could certainly learn a lesson from this military example of integrity and responsiblity. An “ethical lapse” is a nice word for their behavior. Cowardice is maybe more appropriate.

  2. DonGander says:

    Simply outstanding!

    The old adage, “the buck stops here” is turned into “just keep the buck moving”.


  3. tgs says:

    #1. Perhaps treason is even more appropriate.

  4. robroy says:

    See Barney Frank stating that Fannie and Freddie are doing great and should be expanded despite warnings from the Bush administration:

    [url= ]Fox News Special Report on The Banking Crisis[/url].

  5. AnglicanFirst says:

    “We did not see congressmen get on television with charts and eviscerate their organization and say, ‘These were the men who in 2003 allowed Freddie and Fannie unlimited rein over mortgage securities.'”
    ‘Honor’ is the operative term here.

    Military officers are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with a sense of honor and when they are ‘dis-honorable’ the officer community and much more often than not the chain-of-command holds an officer responsible for his dis-honorable actions.

    Officers can be relieved of their duties for “conduct unbecoming officer.” There is a community-wide concept of what is “unbecoming” that guides/should guide an officer in his conduct.

    If we try to make a comparison between congressmen and senators and miltary officers regarding what is “unbecoming,” it obviously becomes an ‘apple and orange’ comparison since our elected politicians have no honor code that similarly defines “honor.”

    An elected official can publically and privately lie, cheat, steal, impugn the character of others, maker promises and renege on them, defy the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, subvert the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, subvert our foreign policy, aid our enemies, et cetera without ever being charged with any sort of offense, let alone “conduct unbecoming.”

    No wonder so many ‘good men’ (and ‘good’ women) refuse to become politicians.

    As the old adage says,
    “If you run with sheep killing dogs, you soon become one of them.”

    Unfortunately there is an exception to this analysis. Officers who are on the promotion ‘fast track’ spend several tours in Washington, DC interfacing with elected and politically appointed officials. As many of these officers become more and more senior, their sense of honor becomes tainted and debased through their frequent interface with the executive branch politicians running our government and the congressmen and senators making law.

    In the end, many of these officers morph into politically expedient individuals who seem to be no longer bound by a code of “honor” nor punished for transgressions against that code of “honor.”

  6. Daniel says:

    This dovetails nicely with a story in “The Black Swan,” a book I highly recommend which discusses the impact of the highly improbable. The author is disdainful to the point of contempt regarding Wall Street financiers, bankers, and particularly economists, when it comes to assessing risk and the fallout that can come with not knowing what you don’t know. In contrast, the author describes a Las Vegas conference on risk assessment conducted by the Department of Defense. He comes away impressed with the professionalism, dedication, scholarship and clear thinking of the people he meets at this meeting.

    I think the difference is that our military, particularly the Marines, value leadership, duty and honor above bureaucratic maneuvering. This is in stark contrast to the malignant narcissism and preening exhibited by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. I don’t know how we get men and women of honor to serve in elected office any more. They are our only hope of regaining the course our nation should be on. Unfortunately, there are too few of them.

    AnglicanFirst nailed it on the politically expedient officers in D.C. Soon after I moved to Fairfax, I was waiting at a bus stop for a car that needed an additional rider to get in the HOV lanes. Since I worked in Pentagon City, I often got rides from military officers stationed at the Pentagon. A Navy Captain and an Army Colonel gave me a ride that day. To make polite conversation I asked the Army officer “What does a Colonel do at the Pentagon?” His derisive reply was “run and get coffee for Generals, which is why I can’t wait to finish my Pentagon tour and get back in the field.”

  7. mhmac13 says:

    Daniel I couldnt agree more about your comments concerning the Marines. I was privileged to watch my grandson graduate from Marine Boot Camp this past November. I came away totally impressed with the dedication, commitment and honor demonstrated by these young men. Truly the military is perhaps our greatest unrecognized and underappreciated resource. We need to do all we can to honor those who serve our country so we can sit here at our computers and wax eloquent, sometimes over nothing very substantial. President Obama would be well served to spend more time with these professionals of service, and learn from them.

  8. Dave B says:

    mhmac13, I agree. There are a lot of very fine young people in the military. It struck me one time, when I was an active duty reservist, that the military has become a subculture and in many ways disconnected from “main stream ” America. In general the people in the military seem to be more self reliant, more conservative, more committed, better educated and live more auster lives. Many members of our society (the press and politicians) disparage these fine young people because they simply don’t understand military values.

  9. mhmac13 says:

    Dave B: The only comment I would make to your note is that those values are what we would call “American values.” Hard work, discipine and commitment to something greater than yourself are the real dirty words in the secular world today!

  10. Juandeveras says:

    I went through Marine boot camp in 1963. Civilians were referred to then as “slimy civilians”. I presume facts haven’t changed, though the PC police may have modified the description.