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Special John Snow Update (Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Morons? Department)

Today we are treated to the edifying spectacle of the worst Treasury Secretary in living memory--John Snow--trying to trash one of the best--Bob Rubin. Of Bob Rubin's Hamilton Project, Snow says: [Rubin and company] styled their undertaking the so-called "Hamilton Project," drawing on the name of the first U.S. Treasury Secretary. Based on what was said, it appears that Hamilton's name may have been misappropriated. Hamilton after all was foremost among the founding fathers in seeing that the new republic's future depended upon the vitality of commerce and the private sector while the authors of the Hamilton Project argue for a larger government role...

Does John Snow really have no clue that Hamilton believed that a big, activist government--regulating the financial system, supporting science and industry, encouraging manufactures, assuming the national debt--was essential for the health of the American economy? Is it really the case that nobody in John Snow's entourage knows that Hamilton was always on the "big government" side in his fights with Jefferson? That Jefferson believed that a big government was a threat to liberty, but that Hamilton did no--Hamilton was not interested in either big government or small government per se but rather in effective government?

Five current and ex administration officials I have polled this morning say, "no." None of them are surprised. They imply that this degree of ignorance on the part of Snow and his entourage is more-or-less par for the course, given what they have seen in the Roosevelt Room and elsewhere.

The Bush administration: once again worse than you can imagine, even after taking account of the fact that the Bush administration is worse than you can imagine.

The kicker is that the White House has as low an opinion of John Snow as anybody. By all accounts, new chief of staff Josh Bolten has been wandering around telling his favored reporters that removing Snow is his first priority. The White House hired Snow wanting a cheerleader for policies designed outside the Treasury by people unqualified to make economic policy. They got what they wanted. And now they are upset--like the story of the city slickers from Houston who buy a steer and then complain about its low sperm count.

The excellent Paul Blustein has some insightful things to say about this:

Snow Is Loyal, but It May Not Be Enough: Snow... hasn't strayed from the Bush administration line, committed serious gaffes, presided over recessions, triggered financial market turmoil or gotten caught in a major scandal. So why does Snow's job security appear so precarious and his performance such a frequent target of discontent at the White House?...

Snow has hewed strictly to the White House's talking points. That... [was] his undoing: He has been such a loyal salesman that he has come across as ineffective.... "I lay some of the blame on the fact that he has followed the script too well"... said Pamela F. Olson, a former assistant Treasury secretary.... "John Snow has been a good mouthpiece even when he would personally have been better off if he hadn't, and the president would have been better off too. But he has followed the instructions he has been given."...

Snow's PR efforts... [have] been hampered by the... [fact that] he plays a much less important role in policymaking.... [A] top Senate Republican staffer [said]... "[T]he problem is that the White House plays it up themselves that [Snow's] the spokesman and policy gets made inside the White House. I think it hurts them, but it's their choice."...

"[Snow] hasn't done anything wrong," [Kevin] Hassett said. Snow could be an effective spokesman, he said, "if he was the one who had the authority to speak and make policy..."

Kevin Hassett is, of course, wrong. Snow should have gone to the White House three years ago and told them, "I can be an effective spokesman and advocate only if I am a maker of policy and not just a cheerleader for policies made elsewhere." His subservience to the White House has not served either the country or Bush well.