Ben Bernanke can expect a standing ovation from economists at a Fed retreat in Jackson Hole today—for the financial establishment, the Fed chairman is a superhero, hailed for his aggressive, unprecedented actions to stem the worst crisis in generations. Yet on Capitol Hill he's far less popular, and the White House still isn't showing its cards about a second term. For the New York Times, Bernanke is fighting two battles: one economic, one political.
Chris Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, says the Fed "institutionally" failed to protect Americans and is far too cozy with Wall Street, a populist refrain heard frequently in Congress. That's irked Bernanke, who has met with hundreds of lawmakers to brief them on the Fed's never-before-seen actions, from bailouts and mergers to printing hundreds of billions in new money. "He has had tremendous courage throughout this episode," said one former Fed governor—but that may not be enough to silence his critics.