It’s not a secret that the Bush administration’s first foreclosure prevention plan, Hope Now, was a failure, but now the flop is immortalized in print—by one of the administration’s own ex-staffers.
Matt Latimer, writing for GQ magazine, mentions the halfhearted attempt to convince mortgage lenders and servicers to modify struggling borrowers’ loans in his account of a job as a speechwriter in the final year of Bush’s presidency. After describing then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as “bald with glasses and…a scratchy voice that sounded like he had a thousand-dollar bill caught in his throat,” Latimer carries his blasé tone to a review of the administration’s response to the deepening financial crisis.
Here’s where he mentions Hope Now:
“To look like we were doing more, we announced various initiatives, such as assembling an alliance to encourage lenders to renegotiate loans. For a while, the communications guys—Ed Gillespie and Kevin Sullivan—wanted the president to give a toll-free number for Americans to call for assistance with their mortgages. I thought that was embarrassing, as if George W. Bush were Jerry Lewis. An additional problem was that the president kept botching the phone number. He thought it was an 800 number, but the number actually had an 888 prefix. So the president ended up telling Americans to call the wrong number.”
Even from the inside, the effort looked like busywork, it seems. One can’t help wondering what could have happened had the commitment to a forceful attempt to stem the foreclosure crisis been put into action earlier.