“the president was clearly confused about how the government would buy these securities. He repeated his belief that the government was going to “buy low and sell high,” and he still didn’t understand why we hadn’t put that into the speech like he’d asked us to. When it was explained to him that his concept of the bailout proposal wasn’t correct, the president was momentarily speechless. He threw up his hands in frustration.
“Why did I sign on to this proposal if I don’t understand what it does?” he asked.”
Now, I’m sure some people will seize on this as evidence of Bush’s cluelessness. But Latimer—who is in general fairly scathing about the president—is convinced that it was Paulson who was to blame for this:
“It wasn’t that the president didn’t understand what his administration wanted to do. It was that the treasury secretary didn’t seem to know, changed his mind, had misled the president, or some combination of the three.”
Indeed, Latimer reports White House gossip that at one meeting, an exasperated Bush told Paulson, “You’ve got to tell me what you’re doing.”
“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.”