Character is fate, the Romans learned, and biography is history. They’re also the essence of today’s headlines. As serious journalists tackle our Great Crash, they should begin by digging deep beneath the perfunctory clip-file profiles of the major players — from White House, Treasury and Fed to Congress to counting-house suites — to connect the dots of lives lived and patronage careers advanced in an intricately interwoven but not indecipherable system.

An in-depth look at the people and their milieu may well lead to smoking guns, like who killed the Wyden-Snowe bonus-reduction or what did anyone know and when did they know it. But more importantly, it will help readers understand the sociology of knowledge and naturally collusive behavior that usually makes racketeering unnecessary. Why do Paulson, Liddy and Geithner, Schumer and Frank, et al., think and act like Paulson, Liddy and Geithner, Schumer and Frank, et al? (And the more adventuresome reporter can probe the same for the newly elevated CEO in the Oval Office.)

Conspiracies are always inviting, and there might even be some floating around, but that’s not the real story here. In James Carville terms, it’s the culture, stupid.

In this vein, I highly recommend Jim Galbraith’s recent piece in the Washington Monthly.

Roger Morris is an award-winning author and investigative journalist who served in the Foreign Service and on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.


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