“Politicians are like children, you can’t just give them what they want, it only encourages them.”
This line is delivered by Sir Frank Gordon, Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, in Smoke Screen, the third episode of the brilliant BBC show, “Yes, Prime Minister.”
So a while back there were a bunch of reviews of Ron Suskin’s book “Confidence Men,” which follows Obama’s economic advisers as they try to extricate the country from the financial crisis it was (and still is) in. Now I haven’t read the book, but I have read a few of the reviews, and one thing they have in common is that they highlight Suskin’s charge that Geithner and Summers, perhaps Obama’s two closest economic advisers, “slow walked” the president on a number of issues the president wanted them to push through.
All this reminded me of the political shenanigans depicted in “Yes, Prime Minister.” Much of the show revolves around the ways the civil service goes about stalling and undermining the Prime Minister’s agenda. It seems that w/r/t Obama’s ideas for reforming Wall Street, Sir Geithner and Sir Summers were simply following Sir Frank’s and Sir Humphrey’s altitudinous advice:
This exchange between the inimitable Humphrey and an Army general is from the show’s first episode, The Grand Design.
General: We must stop him! You must stop him!
Humphreys: One can’t just stop the Prime Minister.
General: Well then what do we do?
Humphreys: Well, we must slow him down. After a few months most new Prime Ministers are more or less ground to a halt anyway.