Here's the weird part of all of these CEO scandals:

The Republicans have attracted so many middle class Americans to a center-right brand of conservatism — low taxes, deregulation, free enterprise entrepreneurialism — but have had a terrible time communicating empathy with all the people who bought into those ideas, and now find themselves with ground zero portfolios as they head into retirement.

It was the Republicans who cleared the way for the great market run-ups, the deregulation era of Ronald Reagan.

I remember at the start of the Reagan administration, the Dow was at 1,000 and the president was saying how we have to get the average person into the market...

The average man and woman got in, and they made big paper gains. Some actually got the cash out and got rich. But when the effects of a few crooks came home to roost, plenty of others didn't get out in time and saw paper portfolios reduced to nothing.

Now it's a political problem.

President Bush has to ramp up his ability to inspire confidence in the economy the same way he has inspired confidence in the war on terror.

If this means seeing that his Attorney General John Ashcroft puts a few of his rich buddies in jail... so be it. Otherwise, the rich buddies will be take advantage of their proximity to the president and abuse the friendship to the disadvantage of both the public and the president.

The Democrats are going to exploit this issue the best they can, and what choice do they have? Complain that Usama bin Laden isn't dead yet? That makes them sound like whiners.

The economy worked well against the former President Bush, and the Dems figure it will work well against his son.

But the public isn't stupid either. It traded security for a good economy when the choice of Bush senior or Bill Clinton came up in 1992, and they are going to have more or less the same choice again in 2004.

That is... unless the president can throw out that part of his team that doesn't seem to be pulling its weight, put in some Wall Street guys who know what to do, and put some other Wall Street guys in the clink.

Until then, the people who lost their paper fortunes are going to keep driving the Dow down as they try to stop the bleeding by selling these junk stocks and good stocks, and sitting on a small pile of nice safe cash.

Bush has to act.

That's My Word.

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