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Sympathy for the Devil

September 26, 2008

Sorry to keep harping about politics, but it’s hard to go anywhere these days without that being the biggest news story of the day. As something of a political wonk myself, I’ve been paying perhaps too much attention to the goings on lately. If ignorance is truly bliss, then I’m probably due for an ulcer any day now.

The big issue on everybody’s mind is the stock market snafu, and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has gone from near obscurity to the most important man in the nation practically overnight. As a middle class American and unashamed class warrior it’s hard to be entirely sympathetic to a man who’s best plan for economic stimulus packet involved giving himself nearly unlimited power to distribute an enormous sum of money to his Wall Street cronies, but a throw-away line on a recent story on Paulson caused me some pause, and reminded me how small this world really is.

Paulson, you see, is a birder. And not a backyard feeder type either, but a hard-nosed, twitching, listing, green-eyed monster of a birder, who sometimes misses more important issues to chase that extra twitch. Not entirely unlike myself, as is evidenced by this story from his days as head of the investment bank Goldman-Sachs:

Hank Paulson, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, has admitted to lawyers suing the New York Stock Exchange’s former chairman, Dick Grasso, over his $140m (pounds 80m) pay package, that he missed a crucial NYSE board meeting because he was birdwatching in Brazil.

How bout that huh?

Paulson has a reputation as an environmentalist, even called a “tree-hugger” by other Cabinet Republicans. Unfortunately this advocation doesn’t overlap much with his political career, he’s Treasury not Interior after all, but it’s interesting to note that someone so high up is really just as geeky about birds as the rest of us.

On his way to work in New York, Paulson would often stop off at Central Park for a spot of birdwatching and invited falconers to show off birds of prey to office staff.

I may find his politics regarding the economic crisis somewhat troubling, though his willingness to compromise has been refreshing for an administration that has shown little impetus for it. But I suspect we could certainly agree on one thing, that we’d most likely prefer being out in the woods this time of year rather then worrying about the fate of the economy.

And in that, I can definitely sympathize.

Edit: This post in no way means to portray Sec. Paulson as “the devil”, he seems like a fine guy. But it’s a reference to the Rolling Stone song, you know?

  1. September 26, 2008 12:53 pm

    Wow, this is an explosive revelation! I definitely feel more sympathetic towards him, despite his role in the current economic catastrophe. Too bad he isn’t in the Interior.

    Anyone who skips a meeting in Brazil to go birding can’t be all bad.

  2. Greg permalink
    September 26, 2008 5:23 pm

    This is just fascinating! Good job of investigative journalism for birders! Enjoyed the post!

  3. September 26, 2008 9:51 pm

    Two quick notes: Sec. Paulson definitely has my admiration as an environmental-oriented birder (in the latest Newsweek profile there’s a shot of a younger, shirtless Henry holding what looks to be Peregrine, perhaps a banding operation on some shoreline?). I’m not sure I can say more, but I *know* he and his wife are committed to birds and conservation.

    Second, *please* keep up the (occasional) politically-tied posts! Your recent “single-issue voter” about Palin reminded me when I first read, and subsequently bookmarked, your blog during the first round of candidate analyses.

    Knowledge is power, and as a political junkie I don’t mind the crossover. Speaking for myself, obviously.

  4. September 26, 2008 11:17 pm

    I knew already that Paulson is a birder. Both he and his wife are active in conservation causes, especially in raising funds. When it comes to his job as Treasury Secretary, though, I care a lot more about what he is doing with public funds.

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