Commentary Magazine


The Lamest Duck

America’s second worst president–or one of its greatest–has one more scheduled opportunity to address global audiences. That comes later this week, when the G20 leaders meet in Washington to discuss the creation of a “new global financial architecture.”

Dubya may seem out of his depths, here. According to Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, the American leader didn’t even know what the G20 was a few weeks ago. But now he’s using the grouping to undermine French attempts to smother the world’s financial system in Eurobureaucratic regulation. If Bush is successful, he will end his troubled presidency on a high note.

Make that an extremely high note. There’s no question Bush’s Washington failed to watch over financial institutions in the years preceding the ongoing global panic. Yet just because there was too little oversight preceding the crisis does not mean regulation is good for the global economy at this moment.

Bush can smell statist solutions and instinctively fight them. As the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland relates, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating European Union presidency through the end of this year, wanted Bush to call a meeting of the G8 in New York. Dubya, however, countered with convening the larger group in Washington. The larger gathering is designed to dilute the unhelpful influence of the Russians and add the friendly Saudis. The choice of venue is intended to eliminate any suggestion that the U.N. be involved in regulation of the financial markets. And President Bush tried to limit the meeting to four hours.

Nobody is safe when 20 national leaders gather in a single room to guarantee global prosperity. After all, there can be nothing but trouble when Sarkozy calls for the “moralization of financial markets.” Even though Bush may be “the lamest of ducks”–the New York Times‘s words, not mine–he is about the only person who can protect free-flowing capital markets from attack by politicians. The Europeans demand action, and so do the G20 finance ministers, who just concluded their meeting in Sao Paulo.

So Dubya will soon have one more opportunity to save the world. And, by the look of things, he’s making all the right moves. Given what could go wrong, it’s a good thing he is.