Blog: Hidden in the Headlines
It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong.
There are few men bigger than Alan Greenspan. And there are few men who have gone wrong in such a big way.
Although he stands shy of six feet tall, the former Federal Reserve Chairman was the colossus of the business world as he oversaw the longest economic boom in American history. But when financial collapse swallowed up the bulls of Wall Street like the cows in Pharaoh’s dream, Mr. Greenspan’s reputation deflated along with the economy.
To his credit, the erstwhile guru humbled himself and confessed the error of his ways. In October, 2008, Mr. Greenspan gave testimony on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight Committee concerning the economic meltdown that ravaged the country. This was the takeaway:
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”
In other words, despite all logic to the contrary, people cannot be trusted to do what is in their own best interest.
The question is: why not?
Every year on St. Patrick’s Day I revisit these thoughts from 1999. Things have gotten better in Ireland, where both sides have finally recognized that peace requires sacrifice and compromise. Not much has improved in Israel, where leaders on one side continue to oppress their people, holding them hostage as political pawns so they can keep their own hold on power.
At first glance, the soggy, green downs of Ulster bear little resemblance to the parched and craggy hills of Israel. But a gentle tugging at the cultural fabric of either place unravels an unmistakable common thread: two peoples, impossibly close geographically, impossibly distant ideologically, with more than enough fuel for hatred between them to burn until the coming of the Messiah. Tromping over hills and through city streets, however, first in one place and then in the other, I discovered a more compelling similarity: the bitter struggle of humanity in exile.
“Which are the bad parts of town, the ones I should avoid?” I asked the owner of the bed-and-breakfast where I passed my first night in Belfast.
She dutifully pointed out the Shankhill neighborhood on my map, cautioning me to steer clear of it. I thanked her and, with sophomoric self-confidence, proceeded there directly.
It was the summer of 1984, in the midst of “the Troubles,” and central Belfast exuded all the charm of a city under martial law.
“Are you still beating your wife, Mr. Secretary?”
That was about the only question not leveled at White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer by the ill-mannered woman who accosted him in an Apple store over the weekend.
“I wanted to speak truth to power,” Mr. Spicer’s assailant explained, after her Periscope video went viral and made international headlines.
Indeed, here was a rare moment of opportunity, a chance to catch a high-ranking official in an unguarded moment and engage him free from the filters of the national press corps and the censors of the nightly news.
So how did our heroic citizen capitalize on her unexpected access to Mr. Trump’s confidant as she streamed it live from her cellphone? What were the penetrating questions she posed to solicit a candid discussion with a representative the president’s inner circle? Here they are: