Greenspan's phony interview... and his real one

It turns out that our own Bill Bonner is not the only one who’s put words in the mouth of Alan Greenspan.

Of course, Bill did it tongue-in-cheek.  But Alexis Debat tried to pass it off as the real thing… among other acts of deception.

For years, Debat posed as a French terrorism expert with a degree from the prestigious Sorbonne.  His act was convincing enough to land a job at the Nixon Center think tank and a gig as a paid “consultant” for ABC News.

He also scored a series of interviews for a highbrow French magazine featuring American political figures like Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg — and Greenspan.  Except the interviews were as phony as his credentials.  Debat’s whole tangled web of lies unraveled this week.

I’d love to see what nonsense he passed off as Greenspan’s own; alas, the interview has already been scrubbed from the magazine’s website, and my trolling the virtual graveyard of online caches has come up dry.  But whatever Debat's fertile imagination might have created, it can’t be nearly as entertaining as a real interview Greenspan did with 60 Minutes that airs this Sunday.

The press release CBS put out in advance of the interview is loaded with tasty morsels like this:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admits he “didn’t really get it” that the subprime lending trend was significant enough to hurt the economy until very late 2005, but still defends his lowering of interest rates from 2001 until 2004 that critics say caused the crisis in the first place…

Greenspan says he knew about the questionable subprime lending tactics that gave loans to homebuyers and investors with low adjustable interest rates that could rise precipitously, but not the severe economic consequences they posed. “While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late,” he tells Stahl. “I really didn’t get it until very late in 2005 and 2006.”

My initial reaction upon reading this was the sort of thing a teenager might type out in an instant message reacting spontaneously to the outrageous antics of a classmate:

OMG! OMG! OMG!  I can't #*%& believe he said that!  What a $(^#@ moron!  OMG!

And then I paused for more sober reflection. 

I mean, the Greenspan confessional parody penned by Bill Bonner was based on the notion that Greenspan had made a calculated decision to abandon the principles of his youth to enjoy the perks of power, and every decision since had followed logically as he amassed more and more power.  But here, the man reveals himself as merely a doddering fool.  Seriously, lefties wonder whether Ronald Reagan was descending into dementia while still in office, and while I'm agnostic on that question, I really, really wonder about Greenspan now.

How else to explain his recommendation in February 2004 that people go out and get adjustable rate mortgages — just as the rate-lowering party was about to come to an end?  The man was simply, absolutely, positively clueless.

And how does he respond to critics of the rate cuts?

“They are mistaken,” Greenspan tells Stahl. “It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low,” he says.

Modestly low?  Greenspan's conception of modesty must be the same as that of Britney Spears.  Those were the lowest rates since the Depression.  Nearly as low as Japan, for crying out loud.

For once, we should take Alan Greenspan at his word.  He really doesn't get it.