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Commentary: White House caught napping on financial crisis

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  • Campbell Brown says administration and some Democrats missed the boat
  • Objects to Paulson's demand that his actions "not be reviewed by any court"
  • Brown says we need serious scrutiny and debate over $700 billion bailout plan
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By Campbell Brown
CNN
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: Election Center" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Wednesday night's broadcast, before President Bush's speech on the financial crisis.

Campbell Brown says the Bush administration shouldn't be surprised Americans look askance at the bailout.

Campbell Brown says the Bush administration shouldn't be surprised Americans look askance at the bailout.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "I have great, great confidence in our capital markets and in our financial institutions. Our financial institutions, banks and investment banks, are strong. Our capital markets are resilient. They're efficient. They're flexible."

-- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, March 16, 2008

"Our policy in this administration -- laws shouldn't bail out lenders, laws shouldn't help speculators."

-- President Bush, May 19, 2008

"Our economy has continued growing, consumers are spending, business are investing, exports continue increasing and American productivity remains strong. We can have confidence in the long-term foundation of our economy...I think the system basically is sound. I truly do."

-- President Bush, July 15, 2008

Video Watch Campbell take the Bush Administration to task »

Those were the words of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President George W. Bush just a few months ago.

Today, of course, they have been proven completely wrong.

They are now telling us we are in a dire crisis, and that we must hand over hundreds of billions of dollars so they can lead us out of this mess.

What's amazing to me is that the administration seems a little surprised that Congress and the American people are not marching in lockstep with them on this and not fully appreciating the urgency.

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Well here's why, in one word: accountability.

This administration missed the boat on this crisis. They didn't see it coming. That's why when Bush goes on TV in a few minutes, he will face a very wary audience.

And Secretary Paulson, frankly, you didn't help the situation with your initial, imperious request to Congress that you be handed this money and that your decisions "may not be reviewed by any court of law or administrative agency." Seriously, what were you thinking?

And Democrats, you are by no means blameless in all of this.

At the center of this crisis are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Although they didn't intend to encourage this spiraling chain reaction, it was leading Democrats in Congress -- Senate banking chairman Chris Dodd and his long-time counterpart in the House, Barney Frank -- who supported legislation that ultimately led to more and more of these bad loans we are all stuck with.

The people you thought you were trying to help are in even worse shape financially.

I know everyone is screaming about how urgent this crisis is and that action must be taken immediately.

But I love and live by former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis' great quote: "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

What we need is scrutiny and debate. If it has to happen quickly, then do it fast, but without grandstanding or political posturing.

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We need serious scrutiny and debate, and that should happen whether we are talking about a giant piece of legislation that is going to affect us all, or whether we are talking about presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Henry M. PaulsonFannie MaeFreddie Mac Holdings

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