When FDR became president, writes David Brooks, his first priority was to give Americans faith in their leadership, to show that someone was running the show. Now that the US is facing the greatest financial crisis since the Depression, today's political leaders "have failed utterly and catastrophically to project any sense of authority, to give the world any reason to believe that this country is being governed."
George Bush, Henry Paulson, Barney Frank, and Nancy Pelosi all dropped the ball on the bailout, but the New York Times columnist reserves his greatest ire for the House Republicans who led 228 "nihilists" to vote down the bill. Their self-serving nays didn't just hurt the markets; they "exacerbated the global psychological freefall." The bailout's opponents "will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century," he writes, destroying not just the economy, but the Republican party as well.