Inside the Bush Treasury Department

The first of what will likely be many tell-all accounts arrives. It's not a pretty picture.

Published April 3, 2009 3:37PM (EDT)

Phillip Swagel, assistant secretary for economic policy during the tenure of Hank Paulson, presented at the Brookings Institute yesterday an extraordinary behind-the-scenes blow-by-blow account detailing how the Treasury Department attempted to deal with the unfolding economic crisis in 2007 and 2008.

Swagel admits at the outset that his explanation of events will inevitably be seen as "defensive" and "self-serving." But he doesn't shy away from harsh self-reflection. This is a must-read for anyone trying to understand how we got to where we are today, and I'll be posting some in-depth analysis later. But for now, here's a teaser:

Other aspects of the decision-making were self-imposed hurdles rather than external constraints. Notable among these hurdles was chronic disorganization within the Treasury itself, and a broadly haphazard policy process within the Administration (and sometimes strained relations between Treasury and White House staff) that made it difficult to harness the full energies of the administration in a common direction.

"Broadly haphazard" is probably one of the more polite ways to characterize the Bush administration's approach to governance. But it bites just a little harder when coming from within.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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