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Rob Christensen compared this year’s election to 1992 – 16 years ago. I’d go back another 60 years – to 1932.

 

Americans were in a panic about the economy.

 

The Republican candidate for president was an experienced, respected veteran of Washington who believed the fundamentals of the economy were sound.

 

The Democrat was a relatively inexperienced, supposed lightweight – nicknamed “Feather Duster” – who remained maddeningly vague and general.

 

Read Jonathan Alter’s great book about the time, Defining Moment, and you may be surprised to find the experts considered the Hoover-FDR race a tossup. At a time of national crisis, they wondered, would the American people turn to an untested outsider?

 

Then, as now, the public wanted “bold, persistent experimentation.” But now it’s the secretary of the Treasury, not the president, who is demanding sweeping executive powers. Not even Republicans dare suggest giving George Bush those powers.

 

Then, as now, nobody in Washington or on Wall Street seemed to know what they were doing. And no politician is sure how to handle the hot potato.

 

Surely it has crossed Barack Obama’s mind – and a few other Democrats’ – that there might be political gold in attacking the $700 billion bailout to Wall Street. But Obama is a cautious, pragmatic guy. Much as FDR refused Hoover’s entreaties to join in a bipartisan plan to save the economy before Inauguration Day.

 

You can imagine what a John Edwards would do. An investment in attacking the bailout bill now – like plunging into the stock market today – could bring a huge payoff. Or an equally huge political loss.

 

 

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