But Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said Tuesday that Greenspan met with administration foreign policy officials to discuss international economic policy. Particularly since the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year, Middle East instability and its potential effects on the world oil supply have been key concerns. Another frequent topic is the interplay of economic and foreign policy issues in many areas.

At most, though, Greenspan was portrayed as allaying fears that a war would derail the economy—pretty much what you’d expect the Fed chairman to concern himself with. Here’s an April 2003 New York Times story on Greenspan agreeing to serve a fifth term as Fed chairman:

He also labored mightily to make himself indispensable. In the days leading up to the war with Iraq, he met repeatedly with top White House officials and gave his tacit blessing to the venture both in public and in private.

A widely acknowledged expert on the oil industry, Mr. Greenspan let it be known that he was not overly worried that the war would cause permanent disruptions to the oil market. Nor did he raise warnings about the financial cost of the war at a time when the federal budget had already run up big new deficits.

But giving “tacit blessing” and being a “behind-the-scenes advocate” is entirely different.

Mostly, though, business-press readers over the years heard that Greenspan was ready to act if the war required it, as the Journal wrote as the war appeared imminent:

Fed Girds for Interest-Rate Cuts as War Scenarios Unfold

This is not so much a criticism of the Journal as a public service to Audit Readers: No, you didn’t miss something. That the then-Fed chairman advocated behind the scenes for the Iraq War is indeed new information. It’s news.


1. Greenspan’s Legacy —- The Navigator — Fed Chief’s Style: Devour the Data, Beware of Dogma —- As Retirement Looms in 2006, Greenspan’s Strong Record Will Be Hard to Replicate —- Did He Help Create a Bubble?
18 November 2004
The Wall Street Journal

2. A More Frequent Visitor; Greenspan’s White House Trips Increased Sharply in Recent Years
Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
27 May 2004
The Washington Post

3. Greenspan Agrees To Another Term Leading the Fed
The New York Times
April 24, 2003

Ends today: If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of
10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.