Glenn: But first I want to spend some time on GM, and sometimes there's a story that is so good that you just have to read it verbatim. Usually you don't say that coming out of the New York Times, but this story is so good that I have to read it verbatim. Dateline Washington. It's not every 31 year old in a first government job that finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism, but that in short is a job description for Brian Deese, a not quite graduate of Yale Law School.
Hold on just a second. I've just got to start at the beginning. Not every 31 year old 31 year old in the first government job that find himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism, but that in short is the job description of Brian Deese, a not quite graduate of the Yale Law School. Huh. Brian Deese had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took his nearly unseen role in the remaking of the American automotive industry, nor for that matter had he given much thought to what and I would an industry that had been in decline ever since he was born. A bit laconic and looking every bit just out of the graduate school student adjusting to life in the West Wing, he's got this beard that appears and disappears, says Steven Rattner, one of the leaders of President Obama's automotive task force. Mr. Deese was thrown into the auto industry's maelstrom as soon as the election night parties ended. There was a time between November 4th and mid February when I was the only full time member of the auto task force, said Mr. Deese, a guy again who hasn't graduated from Yale Law School... yet. Mr. Deese, a special assistant to the president for economic policy, acknowledged recently as he hurried between his desk at the White House and the treasury building next door, it's been a little scary, end quote. But now according to those who have joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automaker's downward spiral, he has emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama's biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention. I believe that is worth repeating that last sentence. But now according to those who have joined him, who have joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automaker's downward spiral, he, the guy who hasn't yet graduated from Yale Law School, it's his first ever government job, he at 31, in his first job, has been rewriting the rules of American capitalism. That guy has now emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama's biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention. While far more prominent members of the administration are making the big decisions about Detroit, it is Mr. Deese who is narrowing their options. A month ago when the administration was divided whether to support Fiat's bid to take over much of Chrysler, it was Mr. Deese who spoke out strongly against simply letting the company go into liquidation, according to several people who were present for the debate. Brian gasps both the economics and the politics. Hold on just a second. Wait just a second. Brian grasps both the economics and the politics about as quickly as I've seen anyone do, says Lawrence H. Summers, head of the economic council who is not known for being patient whenever he believes analysis is sub par or disagrees with his own. And there he was in the Roosevelt Room speaking up vigorously to make the point that the costs we were going to incur giving Fiat a chance were no greater than some of the hidden costs of liquidation. Mr. Deese was not the only one favoring the Fiat deal, but his lengthy memo on how liquidation would increase Medicaid costs, unemployment insurance, and municipal bankruptcies ended the debate. The administration supported this deal. It became a reality yesterday. A federal judge is now handling the high speed bankruptcy proceeding. They approved the sale. Chrysler's best assets would go to the Italian carmaker. Mr. Deese's role is unusual for someone who is neither a formally trained economist as well as not being a business school graduate. I'd like to point out that he also hasn't graduated from law school. They don't point that out. They say he is not a business school graduate and he has never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries. He's wait a minute, hang on just a second. That's a really cavalier way of putting it. Can you imagine if I were appointed on the president's economic council? Do you think the New York Times would just describe me as someone who also never spent much time flipping through the endless studies? Usually you get into a story like this and, okay, there's the meat of it. This never ends. He lives a dual life these days. He starts the day at a desk wedged outside of Mr. Summers' office. Where he can hear what young members of the economic team have come to know as "the Summers bellow." From there he can make it quickly to the press office to help devise explanations for why the taxpayers are spending more than $50 billion on what polls show is a very unpopular bailout for the auto industry. So not only is he devising the plans, he's devising the explanations as well. Several times a day he speed walks to the treasury, taking the shortcut to the tunnel under the colonnade near the kitchens. The other day he talked about how sharply perceptions of the industry's futures changed after Mr. Obama's elections. At the first meeting with Rick Wagoner, he said, referring to GM's recently deposed chief executive, they were in a very different place. He said publicly that bankruptcy was not a viable option. It's been a long process to be able to get everyone to look at the options differently. Is it Mr. Deese, the guy who hasn't graduated from college yet? Is it Mr. Deese who's not formally trained in the economics, nor a business school graduate, nor someone who has spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of American and Japanese auto industries that changed the president's mind? In fact, from before Inauguration Day few in Obama's circle saw any other choice. Every time Mr. Deese ran the numbers on GM and Chrysler, he came back with the now obvious conclusion that neither was a viable business and that their plans to revive themselves did not address the erosion of their revenues. But it took the support of Mr. Rattner and Ron Bloom, senior advisors to the tax force charged with restructuring the automobile industry to help turn Mr. Deese's positions into policy. So the guy with the least amount of experience that hasn't gone to college yet and finished anything doesn't have any formal training on economics, hasn't spent the endless time flipping through, he was the guy who said, let them fail while no one on the senior team saw it. And yet he did. He was the quick functioning he was quickly functioning as the top economic policy staffer through the campaign, Mr. Sperling said. He could blend the policies' needs and the political needs seamlessly. He resumed policy work in the White House. He found himself stuck in Chicago, unable to fly to Washington with his dog and as the economic crisis deepened, finally one night he decided just to get into his car with his dog and drive to Washington. I slept in the parking lot of the GM plant in Ohio. The plant opened during GM's heyday in the mid 1960s where the Pontiac G5 is produced. Under the plan that Mr. Deese worked on when he arrived in Washington, Pontiac will disappear. I guess it was prophetic, he said, shaking his head. Is this not insanity? We have somebody who doesn't know what the hell they are doing rewriting the laws of American capitalism. Can you imagine how the New York Times would treat someone making global warming policy that didn't spend time flipping through the endless studies? We have people in congress not reading bills. We have people in congress making decisions that have never run a business! Why is no one asking how is America going to get her $100 billion back? Is it because we know?