Memo To: Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist extraordinaire
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
The reason I have quote marks around the headline, Maureen, is that I’m not going to update the list from where it was a few years back. Maybe later in the year, but for now I think it is sufficient to review my 1998 picks. I’m prompted to do this because of your Sunday column in the Times about Richard Perle, who I gather wants to open a string of souffle restaurants between the wars he cooks up. Please note he broke into my select list four years ago, along with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and your fellow NYT columnist, Paul Krugman.
Obviously Bill Clinton, who made the list in '98, is no longer a great danger to his fellow citizens, although he did bomb the dickens out of Iraq a few months after this piece ran. It clearly inspired No. 7 on the list, Osama Bin Laden, to begin planning the festivities of 9-11. Madeleine Albright did plenty of damage after she made the list, triggering death and destruction in the Balkans in between cups of tea. I would not count Kissinger a menace anymore, because he has become befuddled in his declining years, and where few people could quite figure out what he was saying when he was at his peak, now he is a mystery to all of us. I had Michel Camdessus and Stanley Fischer of the IMF at the top of the 1998 list, because of the financial leverage they had back then to cause death and destruction. We are well rid of them, but their fingerprints are all over Latin America’s economic collapse. Larry Summers, who nudged Mexico into the peso devaluation that busted its growth, is now the President of Harvard, blundering around from pillar to post, now Harvard’s problem.
To tell you the truth, I’ve thought Krugman might improve with age, but he has become so boring in his pronouncements that he is no danger to anyone but himself. Perle, though, is now probably the No. 1 threat to the planet. I’m delighted to see that you have identified him in that manner. The best line in your column is when Boy Bush asks Perle why oh why should we invade Iraq, which does not have nukes, instead of North Korea, which has plutonium coming out of its ears, Richard answers: “Because it is an easy kill.” Yes, that sums it up. Keep ‘em coming.
August 31, 1998
The Ten Most Dangerous People on Earth
Memo To: Website Browsers, Fans, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: September Selections
1. Alan Greenspan: The Federal Reserve Chairman a year ago was on my list of "Ten Most Respected," but how quickly times change. For ten years, 1987-97, Greenspan managed the world’s most important currency by keeping his eye on its gold value. Now it turns out he is only interested in the gold price when it is going up, doing everything he can to stop its rise. When it began falling in late 1996 from its $383 plateau, we thought for sure he would alert the world to the perils of having it fall to a deflationary level, somewhere below $350 an ounce. It is now at $275 and Greenspan acts as if he doesn’t know he is the principal author of the worldwide financial collapse now gathering steam. Unless he reverses course pronto, he will go down in history as one of its biggest goats.
2. Michel Camdessus: The director of the International Monetary Fund has been No. 1 on this list since we began publishing it from time to time two years ago. The damage he has done in the past two years has been the equivalent of a medium-sized world war, but the primary damage was still the work of the Greenspan Fed. Camdessus will need to squeeze more money out of the U.S. Congress if he going to seriously add to the impoverishment of the world economy, so he drops to No. 2 on our list.
3. Stanley Fischer: The IMF’s co-director, formerly a professor of economics at MIT, hasn’t the foggiest idea of what makes the world work, but has more power to inflict financial chaos on the realm he surveys than any other academic economist anywhere. If Fischer were replaced by almost any third world business economist, Camdessus would be much less dangerous and the world would be a much less dangerous place.
4. Richard Perle: New to our list, Perle is the shadowy global chessplayer who does the primary brainwork for the conservative political establishment and is the architect of the hardline position against Iraq. A former assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, Perle now hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute. If it were up to him, we now would declare war on China and the entire Islamic world, on the grounds that we’re bound to do so anyway, and it might as well be while we have the nuclear advantage. Republican politicians who never heard of Perle, who relishes being a behind-the-scenes puppeteer, are regularly seen on television parroting the stratagems he concocts.
5. Paul Krugman: Another MIT academic economist, Krugman remains high on our list by virtue of his influence among Democratic policymakers and opinion leaders who assume he must be a genius because he makes fun of all his competitors. A favorite at the editorial page of The New York Times and its Sunday Magazine, Krugman is a prolific, rapidly moving target, who gets away with writing an unusual mixture of neo-Keynesian and monetarist gibberish because he does so with supreme confidence. His current shtick is arguing that any economic recession can be cured anywhere by flooding the economy with money. A determined foe of supply-side arguments on taxes and gold.
6. Larry Summers: The de facto Treasury Secretary, deputy to the hapless Bob Rubin, Summers has been on and off our most dangerous list, because he has very brief periods of enlightened supply-side insight. With Rubin eager to get out of Washington, Summers thinks he should be Treasury Secretary de facto, which has him catering to the conventional wisdom on all counts of budget and Fed policy. We counseled him a year ago on all the emerging problems associated with dollar monetary deflation, but it was in-one-ear-and-out-the-other. Like his big boss, he has a Pinocchio problem and is intensely disliked by Republican staffers on Capitol Hill, but Bill loves him.
7. Osama bin Laden: The Saudi exile who has become the world’s premiere terrorist and is the new "hero" in the Arab/Islamic world by virtue of Clinton’s bombing of the Sudan medicine shop, which turns out to have been only a medicine shop and not a VX factory. Another boo-boo for U.S. intelligence. Where will bin Laden strike next? Let’s carpet bomb the Sudan to make sure we hit something that belongs to this fellow, and maybe we can goad him into doing D.C.
8. Bill Clinton: The President is so beleaguered, there’s no telling what he’ll do next. Before Bill bombed the Sudan, I worried more about Vice President Al Gore becoming President. We’ve never seen the President completely cornered so we don’t know what kind of really ugly stuff he’s capable of producing.
9. Madeleine Albright: The Secretary of State should be a force for diplomacy over force, but she does not want any of the menfolk to outdo her willingness to get manly and tough. Ever since she told reporters it was worth the lives of the 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of the UN sanctions in order to punish Saddam, I figure this lady wouldn’t mind having her finger on the button.
10. Henry Kissinger: I watch old Henry the K on the Sunday talk shows and read his newspaper columns and shudder at his continuing influence. He’s well into his 70s and clearly thrilled to be back in the news, which he can assure by supporting every action by the United States to demonstrate that we are the superpower by bombing at will. Whatever respect I once had for Kissinger is gone with the wind. I have to conclude that he was a drag on Richard Nixon, not an asset, and I predict that’s the way history will size him up. Meanwhile, he is supporting EVERY foreign policy initiative of the Eastern Establishment, all of which are arrogant and foolhardy in their exercise of power.