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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 21, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    What’s stuck in Cowen’s craw?

    Harry McGee

    And so to Tullamore this morning for a doorstep interview with the Taoiseach.

    It was a bit of a turas in aisce. Okay he has to play with the deck of cards dealt to him by the gaggle of reporters. But boy he surely must have put in a lot of effort to achieve such indifference.

    Later he did a long interview with Collette Fitzpatrick on TV3. He answered all her questions and was unfailingly polite. But on some of these occasions (the Late Late interview included) he makes John Major appear like Freddie Mercury by comparison.

    And then this morning, immediately after giving a lacklustre doorstep interview with juggernaut sentences, Cowen walked into the factory he was opening, threw away the script, and unchested himself of a great little speech about backing our own and not being so afraid of risk aversion.

    That made me laugh. Cowen is the very definition of risk aversion. The way he likes to spin it he is unspun. But he’s not that. He’s a mollusc that remains unopened. His suspicion of the press, his natural disposition to reveal as little as possible, his defensiveness in public are all flaws that remain problematic.

    It’s only when he’s in debating mode or telling a yarn to friends that he can summon up the requisite energy. He might talk about hope and optimism but his very demeanour and poise betray the lack of it all the way.

    As I drove back to Dublin I was thinking of the innate caution and risk aversion that makes his criticism of bankers actually sound like praise.

    Later I read Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times. And he could have been giving out about Cowen but was giving out about Obama of all people! It was that kind of day! Below is the extract!

    All I can think is that this was another example of something we’ve seen before: Mr. Obama’s visceral reluctance to engage in anything that resembles populist rhetoric.

    And that’s something he needs to get over.It’s not just that taking a populist stance on bankers’ pay is good politics – although it is: the administration has suffered more than it seems to realize from the perception that it’s giving taxpayers’ hard-earned money away to Wall Street, and it should welcome the chance to portray the G.O.P. as the party of obscene bonuses.

    Equally important, in this case populism is good economics. Indeed, you can make the case that reforming bankers’ compensation is the single best thing we can do to prevent another financial crisis a few years down the road.It’s time for the president to realize that sometimes populism, especially populism that makes bankers angry, is exactly what the economy needs.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      Partly agree but the media are pissed off because they are not getting soundbites, but when they get the soundbites they play havoc with them and rehash them in 20 different ways to pull readers in to share their prey. Berlusconi and Sarkozy are wide open in this respect. Great men for a soundbite.

      But Obama, Merkel, Brown, Cowen refuse to give the media their morsels. And this because the morsels are abused, bandied around and don’t achieve what they were intended to achieve.

      The result are ‘boring” leaders who speak in full complete nuanced sentences to make sure that no hack will run away with a glib quote and try to make a name for him/herself with it.

      The fact is Cowen is as witty as hell over a bar counter with a few pints and with or without the pints I see flashes of humour in Obama. I would say both are well capable of the pithy comment, the soundbite, but have found it does not help them to stay on the higher ground and only leads to getting mauled and misinterpreted by the Press.

      So there are two sides to your comment Harry.



    • Getting rid of Cowen, unlike voting for Lisbon, would do much to bring closer the end of this recession. He has not adjusted to the new reality of the recession, which requires taking on – not pandering to – vested interests – notably in the public sector. Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has sent the question of reforming the professions to yet another “committee”. Cowen’s government is always a committee away from taking difficult decisions. On its own, that justifies a no vote to Lisbon which would most certainly oust him from the office of An Taoiseach.

    • Liam says:

      Krugman is wrong , bonuses are only a symptom of the underlying problem. Fannie and Freddie, the ratings cartel , bubbles Greenspan and his successor are the main causal factors. It would be just like politicians to chase shadows rather than address the real problems

    • Joe says:

      btw: a video exists that obviously makes
      a lot of sense to watch. It’s three news
      shows (on US TV) in 06 / 07 forecasting
      and advising on the financial markets.
      Most of them were incredibly wrong. At
      that time their opinion was so dominant
      worldwide and possibly the reason for
      it’s popularity. Because now is furthers
      very convenient clarity. It’s really no
      mistake seeing that one.
      the “Peter Schiff video”:

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