the greatest depression

Hank Paulson Sees Himself and Ben Bernanke As a Team of Outlaws

“Do you know what you are doing?” “Theoretically.”

Ha. We knew Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson were starring in a movie in their own minds, but it wasn’t National Treasure, as we suspected. It is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, because they are old. Joe Nocera had a long sit-down with the Treasury secretary for his book a dramatic Page One Times feature today, in which Paulson describes what was going through his mind during the early weeks of the financial crisis, as he raced from one problem to the next, trying to solve them, only to have another one appear on the horizon. “I feel like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” he told the Times. “Who are these guys that just keep coming?”

Paulson is super-pleased with this analogy, you can tell. Like when he describes how Ben Bernanke asks him to go ask Congress for help, it’s just like when Butch, the thoughtful one played by Paul Newman, comes up with the idea for the two of them to go to Bolivia because there’s gold there:

“Ben said, ‘Will you go to Congress with me?’” Paulson, who we imagine fancies himself to look a little like Robert Redford (if Robert Redford were bald), told the paper. “I said: ‘Fine, I’m your partner. I’ll go to Congress.’”

See? They are partners till the death. Just like B&S! Only: no. No, no. No. This is basically like the worst metaphor ever for Paulson to have used.

Not only were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbers — immoral, lawless, murdering robbers — they were feckless robbers. They had no idea what they were doing! But maybe Bernanke and Paulson also identified with that:

They were asking the most basic questions,” said one Wall Street executive who spoke to Treasury officials after the bailout bill was passed. “It was clear they hadn’t thought it through.”

Oh, God. In Paulson’s mind, is Nancy Pelosi Etta Place, the woman they both romance? Because if so, we not only feel doomed, we feel really grossed out.

Hank Paulson Sees Himself and Ben Bernanke As a Team of Outlaws