Victory at sea

November 18, 2008: 2:33 PM ET

paulson_hearing_0923_ap_01Yesterday Mr. Paulson told Congress that the bailout was working and that he was "very proud of the decisive actions by Treasury, the Fed and the FDIC to stabilize our financial system," adding, "We have done what was necessary as facts and conditions in the market and economy have changed."

I am put in mind of two things.

The first is what happened when this nation finally found it impossible not to exit the War in Vietnam. Given a number of other alternatives that would not have played very well in the media, the Nixon Administration simply decided to declare victory and go home. The guys who didn't believe we had actually achieved victory weren't fooled. Those who wanted to believe we had in fact done so were mollified somewhat. And we did what we did. So it's kind of like that.

The second thing Mr. Paulson's statement conjured up, like a madeleine dipped into a glass of tea, was something said by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the middle of the worst part of that same war, well before it was coming to its eventual denouement. "War is over if you want it," they said. Of course, it wasn't. It was just a slogan... propaganda... but since John was a smart guy, I always believed that he was sort of saying that intentions and positive thinking sometimes yields results. So... right on, Mr. Paulson. Power to the people and all that.

Except not. Because on Monday, that very same Mr. Henry Paulson told the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council that he intended to keep the more than $400 billion left in the bailout fund in reserve. He said, somewhat in line with his statements to Congress, that things were going well, that the economy was stabilizing, and that, now that the banks and AIG (AIG) are partially taken care of, he's going to leave it up to the Obama administration to figure out what to do with the rest of the dough. So no handouts from Paulson for GM (GM), which employs all those poor people, and no immediate money for anybody else, either.

This disappointed me. I was so looking forward to my share of the payout just in time to save Christmas. Weren't you?

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