The Evolving Philosophy of Hank Paulson


We've been frustrated by Henry Paulson's flip-flopping on strategies for dealing with the financial crisis, because, God damn it, we want him to have a plan so that everyone can feel safe. But the Washington Post's long feature on the Treasury secretary today, in which he is kind of disarmingly honest about how his mind-set has changed ("My thinking has evolved a lot to the point where I've seen regulation up close and personal … I've realized how flawed it is and how imperfect, but how necessary it is") reminds us that elasticity is not a bad thing. After all,

"These are unprecedented times," said Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., who has worked closely with Paulson and occasionally clashed with him. "He doesn't have an ideological bias one way or the other. He's tried to be receptive as he developed responses, and to his credit, he is willing to go where folks have dared not to go in terms of regulation."

But with due respect to Bair, it does seem that there is one thing guiding Paulson these days.

A kind of mantra surfaces in several places in the Post story: In the beginning, when Paulson recalls explaining to hedge-fund managers that they'll have to cope with regulation:

"You should not be thinking about how to fight it but how to make it work," he recounted telling them at the meeting last month.

And then later, when he recounts talking to Barclay's, "Then I said, 'Well, give us your best deal with government support, and let me try to figure out how to make it work.'"

God, we knew Project Runway was influential, but we didn't know it was this influential. Snaps to Tim Gunn for his work with yet another generation-defining program!

A Conversion in This Storm [WP]