Bailout, Election Make For Volatile Mix

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The political fight over the Wall Street bailout is made even more hectic by its proximity to the November presidential election. Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at Georgetown University, puts recent developments into a historical context.


Fiscal Armageddon, Democrats helping the Bush administration, Republicans bulking. These are historic times indeed. We actually verified this by calling Clyde Wilcox, professor of Government at Georgetown University. I asked if he had ever seen anything quite like this.

Professor CLYDE WILCOX (Government, Georgetown University): Yeah. During the Regan administration, it would often be the case, that House Republicans in particular would not go along with some of Reagan's proposals. And so he would manage to get to get support by winning majority of Democrats and a few Republicans.

But one of the things that when really complicated financial legislation like this happens, often times it takes Congress a little while to deliberate and put together coalitions. And the high pressure to get this done very, very quickly is not usually a sign of Congress doing it's best. When Congress gets a bill passed really, really fast there's almost always significant things they need to go back and change later.

COHEN: You mentioned the similarities to the Reagan administration, it seems like one key difference here is that so much of this is happening so close to an election.

Mr. WILCOX: Yeah right. I mean, that's absolutely right and that makes it even more, you know, likely that there will be a political considerations into the bill and they'll be jockeying in for position. You know, McCain sort of leaving the stump and rushing to Washington and then getting there a little late for the deliberations anyway, is obviously an attempt to kind of change the dynamics of the campaign. But we have had elections on regular schedules in America throughout our history. We've done this one when we were in the Civil War and World War I, World War II, the Great Depression and so. You know, we have elections, we don't put them off for crisis. ..TEXT: And so, this is the kind of issue that I think the candidates are going to want to discuss. Really, really tricky thing is if the debate tonight ends up talking a lot about this crisis, I'm not sure either candidate is quite certain yet what they want to say.

COHEN: Many Republicans have built their career on this message of free enterprise. Given the situations we have at hand today, what possible course can they take in terms of what they do in this proposed plan that's on the table now?

Mr. WILCOX: Well, I guess it's really complicated because essentially the plan increases the control of the - by the Treasury Department of economic matters. On the other hand, you know, the regulatory pushes of the last decade are being implicated by many economists for the problem in the first place.

So, certainly they can't say what we need to do as deregulate further. On the other hand, many House Republicans are pretty resistant to the really strong expansion of the federal government's power here, and especially having this happen so quickly. So in a normal scenario, you really would like to have Congress be able to deliberate this in other certain crisis atmosphere, bank failed, you know, yesterday or whatever.

But there is - you know, these are complicated issues. And we're putting together packages very quickly and we did a package earlier and a package before that and so. There's a sense of which even with the election taking place Congress has to do this job and deliberate and take a little bit of time and get it right.

COHEN: Clyde Wilcox, professor of Government at Georgetown University. Thank you so much.

Mr. WILCOX: Thank you.

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