Magazine article American Banker

Clinton Aide's Tragic Death Emphasizes the Need for Civility

Magazine article American Banker

Clinton Aide's Tragic Death Emphasizes the Need for Civility

Article excerpt

I never met Vincent Foster, the lifelong friend of the President who took his own life. and I can't pretend to know what drove him to do what he did.

It's been reported that he was a perfectionist who couldn't cope with the intense pressures of life in the Washington fishbowl. He was said to have been distraught over the thought that he had failed his friend in handling the White House travel office affair and investing some of the President's nominees for top positions.

His reaction was extreme and could not have been anticipated. But he was right about one thing. Washington has become a very tough town, where political expediency all too often overrides human compassion and basic decency.

The S&L Example

I have witnessed this phenomenon time and time again in Washington's handling of banking matters, particularly in the aftermath of the S&L debacle.

The S&L mess was created by a series of monumental blunders by government policymakers. Thrifts is were not allowed to evolve during the 1960s and 1970s, when developments in the marketplace were eroding their franchise.

Then in the 1980s, when much of the industry was beyond repair, S&Ls were turned loose. without proper supervision, to grow with abandon.

Once the magnitude of the disaster was recognized, it would have been honest for elected officials to accept responsibility for having allowed it to happen. Honest, yes, but politically expedient, no.

Victims of the Crisis

So, we embarked on a search for scapegoats. Countless lives and careers have been damaged severely in the process.

I recently met up with an old friend who had an illustrious career as a banker before his bank got caught up in the crisis and failed. He is one of the most decent and honorable individuals it has been my pleasure to know.

He and his fellow directors were sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. …

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