Friday, January 15, 2016
It was 8:00 p. m. Tuesday, September 16, 2008. I was exhausted, mentally and emotionally drained, but I could not sit. Through the windows of my office in the Federal Reserves Eccles Building, I could see the lights of the traffic on Constitution Avenue and the shadowy outlines of American elms lining the National Mall. Dozens of staff members remained at work, but the corridor immediately outside my door was hushed and empty. Michelle Smith, the head of our communications office and my chief of staff, sat quietly, the only other person in the room. She was waiting for me to say something.
Four hours earlier, Treasury secretary Hank Paulson and I had sat side by side in tan leather armchairs in the windowless Roosevelt Room of the White House, steps from the Oval Office. A portrait of Teddy Roosevelt as Rough Rider on a rearing horse hung above a fireplace. Facing Hank and me across the room's polished wood table sat the current occupant of the White House, a somber George W. Bush, with Vice President Dick Cheney at his side. The president's advisers, Hank's senior aides, and representatives of other financial regulatory agencies filled the remaining dozen seats around the table.
Usually, the president liked to keep things light at meetings, by opening with a wisecrack or good-naturedly teasing a close adviser. Not that afternoon. He asked bluntly, "How did we get to this point."
-Ben S. Bernanke, from the Prologue to The Courage To Act: A Memoir Of A Crisis And Its Aftermath