CNN's Blitzer Ignores William Cohen's Prior Service on AIG's Board of Directors

September 18th, 2008 8:02 PM

Updated with correction below.

CNN's Situation Room today featured a Wolf Blitzer interview with former Defense Secretary William Cohen. As a lead in to the interview, White House correspondent Elaine Quijano reported on President Bush's actions to quiet the country's financial jitters. She wrapped up:

QUIJANO: Meantime, fellow Republicans are blasting the Bush administration, questioning why taxpayer dollars are being used to bail out private firms, and they say officials did not consult with them ahead of time. But the White House says, officials did the best that they could amid the fast-moving crisis -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Elaine, thanks very much. Let's assess what's going on with the former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a former U.S. senator. He's chairman and CEO of the Cohen Group here in Washington.

First of all, you were a Republican member of the House, a member of the Senate a long time. We're seeing these Republicans, including Republican leaders, now coming out pretty -- pretty critical of the president himself.

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I said for many, many years, government is always the enemy, until you need a friend.

And I think that has been the posture, I think, of too many political leadership, always pointing the finger, saying, get government off our backs. You're nothing but a bunch of bureaucrats.

Well, bureaucrats are public servants, civil servants. The government is necessary. You can't have a totally unlimited free market economy without the government having some regulatory responsibility.


BLITZER: So, what you're saying is, all this deregulation in recent years, some of it may have been counterproductive.

COHEN: What you need is a Goldilocks solution, not too heavy, not too light, not too hot, not too cold, something in which there is a regulatory scheme which in fact does oversee the responsibilities of the Congress and also the administration, to make sure that you don't have cowboys, basically, ignoring the fundamentals of our economy.

Interestingly, Blitzer didn't ask Cohen about his connection to American International Group (AIG). Cohen served on AIG's board of directors and was elected to that position in 2004.

AIG, of course, received an $85 billion government bailout earlier this week. Blitzer could have introduced a line of questions centering on what responsibilities board directors have in avoiding the turmoil that's afflicted the U.S. economy. Were directors asleep at the switch? What fiscal oversight should they have provided? Does Cohen accept any personal responsibility for what's happened?

No such potentially embarrassing questions were asked. Instead, Cohen was allowed to speak about the prudence of government intervention. No doubt he thinks it's great AIG has "a friend" in Washington to prop it up.

Correction/Editor's Note: We stand corrected. Cohen no longer serves on the board and we apologize for the confusion. In the post above, we linked to an archived page of the Board of Directors list that is still accessible at AIG's Web site. The current board, however, doesn't include Cohen.

Below is a screen capture of the old BOD page:

AIG Board of Directors page archived