Senator Bunning?

Interesting surprise coming up next week eventually that involves the infamous Senator Bunning, the Hall of Famer baseball pitcher with the 6.35 ERA rookie season.

Question for the assembled brain trust: What do we know about the Senator — beyond the obvious?

My issue with him has been with the rather harsh criticism of Ben Bernanke: How fair or unfair has his criticism been?

Have we really given Bernanke a fair shot?  I don’t want the charge in life to be the Defender of the Fed — but I’d like to know what the real deal is:

How much or how little responsibility does Bernanke have the present economic circumstances.

Was John Berry correct? The Washington Post reporter said that at "the Correspondent Association’s dinner (April 29), virtually all reporters treat discussions at such events as being off-the-record; He blamed Maria Bartiroma for the error."

Its easy to point fingers, but let’s get to the heart of the matter — how much of the present inflation is due to ultra low rates? Huge deficits? Unfunded tax cuts?

Phrased differently, who is more responsible for the present inflationary run up — Bernanke or Bunning’s Congressional Colleagues?

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Ned commented on Jul 26

    See Hussman’s opinion of the Fed.
    Ben who?
    LOL but actually true.

  2. Mark commented on Jul 26

    Bunning had one of the closest elections of his life in 2004, in a district he had dominated, due in great part to erratic statements and behavior on the campaign trail. Some just said he was old; some that he had lost some mental capacity. I don’t know the truth on that but I do know that his staements regarding Bernanke are over the top.

  3. Josh commented on Jul 26

    I wonder if Bunning is up for re-election and is just running his mouth like a low-educated fool that doesn’t understand the situation.

    In other words, he is spouting off just to make his constituents feel like he is doing something for them.

  4. jw commented on Jul 26

    the question should be: “Bernanke, Bunning or Bond market?”

    I think it’s been clear for quite a long time the bond market leads the fed around by the nose. (the fed might have taken rates to 1%, but the market took the long end of the curve to sub-4%– where most credit is created).

    they can influence opinion somewhat (“this is a dang ‘conundrum’, I tell ya!”), but most of those big elephants stomping around in the humongous treasury market know the Fed folks are just talking their book (policy goals).

  5. Bob A commented on Jul 26

    I don ‘t believe that, if Bernanke made that comment to the head of Citibank or whoever it, as Maria said, that the guy wouln’t leak it to people in his organization, given them a huge unfair advantage over other and/or ordinary investors. The question is, is Bernanke so naive he would think otherwise? Or is this SOP, and does it explain why recently on occasion markets started rising around the world the night before the official announcements make their way to us peasants later in the day.

  6. M.Z. Forrest commented on Jul 26

    If I remember correctly Bunning was one of the few critics of Greenspan in Congress. I’ll have to do a re-read of “Greenspan Fraud,” but I’m pretty sure Bunning didn’t really like Greenspan. So, even if a lot of this is Greenspan’s fault, a conclusion I find reasonable, Bunning might just be criticizing Bernake’s continuation of his policies.

  7. Sestina commented on Jul 26

    Inflationary runup? Bunning has been pretty consistenly complaining that Greenspan was and Bernanke is too tight-fisted with the money supply. For years. No matter how loose the money supply has been. Bunning is *not* worried about inflation.

  8. Michael C. commented on Jul 26

    More James Cramer today.

    18 minutes before the close – “I am liking Baidu (BIDU) and Varian (VARI) ahead of earnings tonight.”

    VARI no change. BIDU down more than $10.

    “My bad, Baidu looked good and now selling off big. ”

    Someone has to reign in that guy. Sure the more sophisticated traders/investors laugh at the guy. But has he no comprehension that he is in a public forum and less sophisticated traders/investors will follow his “advice” even regardless of his “do your own research” mantra.

    “My bad”…? Shit, that’s what I say to someone at a bar when I knock over their beer. Hilarious. Someone out there please do something about that freak.

  9. Kevin commented on Jul 26

    Speaking of inflation, a +6 ERA in those days would be nearly 7 now.
    The year he had a 6.35, the league ERA was 3.84.
    Last year, the AL league ERA was 4.45.

  10. speedlet commented on Jul 26

    A fed chairman’s greatness is usually inversely proportional to his popularity with politicians. Paul Volcker was endlessly pilloried in Senate hearings.

    I’m not saying Helicopter Ben is going to be Volcker’s equal (we should be so lucky) but sometimes people can surprise you. Either way, this episode may give us a preview of how B.B. will react in future — and much greater — crises.

  11. Alaskan Pete commented on Jul 26

    Barry, funny you ask about Bunning. There are some rich anecdotes from his last Sentate run, particularly about how senile/clueless the guy has become. He is truly “out to lunch”. Here’s a classic Bunning quote from late 2004:
    “Bunning, when asked how he could possibly not be aware of the biggest news story of the last several days, snapped:

    Let me explain something: I don’t watch the national news or read the paper. I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.”

    Another choice snippet from campaign ’04 coverage:

    A Republican Senator in Kentucky can generally be guaranteed to get re-elected, if he wants. Which is why the campaign of current Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning (R) is so amazing. He was practically guaranteed to win, given his six-to-one funding advantage, his unknown opponent, and the natural Republican tendencies of Kentucky.

    But suddenly, he began acting very strange. He made an accusation that Dr. Daniel Mongiardo’s wife had attacked his, when no attack took place. He commented that Dr. Mongiardo “looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.” There were supposed to be two live debates, but at the last minute, he refused to appear in person for the first, instead appearing via satellite from GOP headquarters. Later, his people admitted he used a teleprompter. He didn’t even bother showing up for the second debate, nor did he give an excuse.

    The general theory? That Bunning is suffering from some form of mental problem, whether Alzheimer’s or dementia, and cannot be trusted to make a public appearance sans script. Being so close to the election, they can’t run another Republican, and with the Senate as close as it is they can’t concede the race.

    That should be enough to get you started Barry.

  12. abe commented on Jul 26

    On Bunning I agree with Alaskan Pete; he was a mess on the trail. Maria sandbagged the rookie, and perhaps her network. I assume her interpretation, on/off the record, was made in bad faith. If not she should have been on air pre open. These were clearly market moving comments, much like Fisher’s bit of baseball nonsense. Cramer is a disaster. Keep in mind he was at his best, trading wise, pre Reg FD. Spiking into an event ain’t what it used to be. Anybody watching the Fast Money show tonight? Ratigan is tough to stomach, but it is a talented group. Once a week vs Jimbo tossing out a dozen opinions a day, that just seems like the way to go.

  13. RW commented on Jul 26

    “…who is more responsible for the present inflationary run up — Bernanke or Bunning?”

    Certainly not Bernanke; his predecessor Greenspan along with a feckless, spendthrift legislative branch and an incompetent, spendthrift executive branch, sure. Lump senator Bunning in with his irresponsible legislative pals but since he initiated no significant legislation nor provided any leadership I’m aware of it’s hard to actually blame him for anything specific.

    WRT Bunning’s last race, I’d go with Pete — I lived in Kentucky at the time but unfortunately our local news was Republican so what little news we got of Bunning tended to be either extremely superficial (cuts ribbon at new landfill or pledges himself to god and country sort of thing) or, at most, slightly odd (taking time off the campaign trail to ‘rest’ or ‘spend time with family’). News sources to the north and east were willing to supply more detail including the references Pete made; e.g., one of Bunning’s campaign breaks was indeed medical in nature but I don’t recall much detail.

    In retrospect Mongiardo proved a strong and very active candidate — Bunning flat couldn’t face or pace him — and it actually looked as if he would win as he took a slight lead in the eastern (Appalachian) and central counties first to report election eve. Bunning finally won based on the returns of the western counties (Kentucky is in two time-zones). As I recall there was some accusation of voter fraud as a number of these counties had new electronic voting machines w/ no paper trail and the results did not match exit polls in several counties including Muhlenberg (“Paradise”) but in the end nothing came of that as far as I know.

  14. Detroit Dan commented on Jul 26

    Bunning was a good pitcher! I loved him as a kid growing up.

    Too bad he went astray in his later years (-;

  15. RW commented on Jul 26

    Agree with that Dan. Don’t think he was as gifted as a Koufax (for example) but he was fast and he was tough; didn’t matter who you were or how great your name, if he didn’t like the way you were standing at the plate he would brush you back and if you still tried to crowd him he’d put the next one in your ear.

    He knew enough about baseball to quit while he was ahead, the same can’t be said thereafter; too bad.

  16. GerryL commented on Jul 26

    The Maria Bartiroma situation was clearly a rookie mistake by Bernanke and I think he deserves a pass on it. However, one question I have had about that situation is that the conversation was at a cocktail party on a Saturday night. She waited until 3pm on Monday to disclose the information on her regular show. If she was really acting as a journalist shouldn’t she have come on CNBC the first thing Monday morning so everybody would have the information before the markets opened?

  17. John F. commented on Jul 26

    Bunning, hands down. The budget deficit and unfunded liabilities are Congress’ tar baby. Not that you’d know it from the hearings…

  18. Glenn commented on Jul 26

    Big tax cuts = huge deficits (non-productive governmental liabilities; e.g., IRAQ war) = structural inflation. Fiscal policy creates the situation that dictates monetary actions (more like reactions) that cause inflation to flare-up. Therefore my vote:

    Bunning 1, Bernanke 0

  19. jim commented on Jul 26

    I posted this message today (7-26) on the Yahoo FNSR message board. “There oughta be a law..pumper calls Cramer, Cramers blows a kiss, pumper dumps on chumps the following day”. Anyway, that was the play on Finisar Wednesday.

  20. commented on Jul 27

    Bunning v. Bernanke

    We’re decidedly ignorant when it comes to people who have job titles like “Senator.” That may or not be a good thing. Maybe knowing something about those types would help us understand the world better. But the cost of paying…

  21. commented on Jul 27

    Bunning v. Bernanke

    We’re decidedly ignorant when it comes to people who have job titles like “Senator.” That may or not be a good thing. Maybe knowing something about those types would help us understand the world better. But the cost of paying…

  22. abe commented on Jul 27

    Gerry, of course she should have, which factors into my sandbag conclusion. I believe she spent a chunk of the day looking to justify disclosing off the record remarks. The General’s mistake was thinking anyone from CNBC was a journalist. I am quite sure Greenspan did not excuse himself from the table when economic topics were discussed over dinner. None of his wife’s media friends ever went public with these utterences. Poor form from the JV network.

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