Friday, November 28, 2008

Rough draft of history: what magazines can do

In this week's New Yorker, John Cassidy offers a remarkably calm, detailed, and judicious analysis of how Ben Bernanke and other top American economic policy makers have tried to cope with The Meltdown. It's not reassuring, particularly in setting out how blinkered and ideological these masters of economics all were for so long (one casualty of the meltdown: Alan Greenspan's reputation!) but recent weeks offer hints that they may be smart enough to learn on the job....

What this piece is reassuring about: serious longform magazine journalism. This is a very long article, with wonderful sources and terrific access by a reporter who knows the turf. It's what magazines are for. Deadtree media deliver again.

Have to ask.. what publication could perform a similar service in scrutinizing the Bank of Canada and the Finance Department here? (Making due allowances; no one in Canada gets to practice magazine writing like the New Yorker does.) Maybe Saturday Night would have once, but I would not expect The Walrus to do it today -- which is a measure of that magazine's failure to fulfill the hopes for it. Best chance... a weekend feature in the Globe (except who wants to read a great unwieldy newspaper at that length?), or, amazingly enough, Maclean's.

The article is not really about George Bush, but here's Bernanke's first official meeting as Chair of the Fed with the president who appointed him:
After he and Hubbard sat down in the Oval Office, President Bush noticed that Bernanke was wearing light-tan socks under his dark suit. “Where did you get those socks, Ben?” he asked. “They don’t match.” Bernanke didn’t falter. “I bought them at the Gap—three pairs for seven dollars,” he replied. During the briefing, which lasted about forty-five minutes, the President mentioned the socks several times.

January 20 can't come soon enough.
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