Before this summer most Americans probably couldn't have named the secretary of the treasury unless they opened their wallet and read who it was that signed all their money. Now they can not only name the man responsible for the bailout plan, but they can also probably identify the intimidating combination of Frankenstein and Colonel Klink that is Henry Paulson.
While I think it is good that our country is getting to know the man fifth in the line to the presidential succession, I'm struck by his rise to prominence, predicated almost entirely on President Bush's conspicuous absence from the spotlight during this time of crisis.
The supporting role the president has embraced is the opposite of his role after the attacks of Sept. 11 and the period leading up to the Iraq War, when he was the face of the nation. And it was when the president took on this leading role that he was able to calm the nation and offer hope, albeit misguided, that everything was going to be all right.
So right now, when the market faces a lack of consumer confidence, wouldn't it seem like this is the time for Bush to be embracing his role as father figure to the country?
Now is when he needs to tell us that everything is going to be fine and reassure the country that daddy's got everything under control, even if he doesn't. The president should follow the example of Franklin Roosevelt, who was able to calm a nervous nation with fireside chats, providing hope and confidence even while the country sank deeper into the depression during the first four years of his administration.
An active President Bush isn't a silver bullet for our nation's woes, as demonstrated by his tenure, but right now the man who prides himself on being a leader and "the decider" seems content to let someone else steer the ship until inauguration day. This has left a heavy burden for Paulson and Democrats Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, who were basically given the responsibility of crafting a bailout and selling it to the American people.
And it was this inability to carry out the latter task that shows how invaluable a salesman like Bush could have been. The man who talked a nation into war could have easily made Americans embrace the bailout and probably would have gotten us to buy some steak knives too.
But instead Americans were left in the dark about the bailout and still fail to grasp its importance, as our representatives haven't even tried to articulate the need for government action.
This should not be construed as an endorsement of overly dramatic gestures like suspending a presidential campaign or designing a presidential seal, but rather the idealistic hope that we can have a president who engages in a conversation with the American people and can inspire them to do the impossible.
Maybe that means the lofty speeches and high minded ideals of Sen. Obama, or maybe that means we need the take -the-bull-by-the-horns approach of Sen. McCain, but at this point either would be an improvement over a president who seems poised to run out the clock until the day he can go back to cutting brush at his ranch in Texas.
Dave Lombardo is a senior political science major who wishes President Bush would just hold him, and say everything will be alright.