The US in transition: The economy: Senators stroke purring Bentsen into Treasury

WHOEVER said the US Senate wasn't the cosiest club in the world? Yesterday, in a display of unctuous camaraderie remarkable even by its own standards, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved Lloyd Bentsen as Treasury Secretary in 17 minutes flat, before even the most cursory inquiry as to what he might actually do in the job.

No offence is meant to Mr Bentsen, a man of undoubted and proven merit. But it was a scene to make the blood boil of anyone who would reform Capitol Hill; a foregone conclusion worked out by a small, all-male, all-white and mostly elderly group of senators in which a nominee and his supposed interrogators exchanged compliments like the finest frankincense.

In reality, of course, nothing less was to be expected. From 1986 until last month's summons by president-elect Bill Clinton to higher things, Mr Bentsen had been chairman of the committee which yesterday recommended his confirmation; to have queried his selection, let alone reject it, would have been akin to the College of Cardinals throwing out the Pope.

In the event, not a whiff of lese-majeste was in the air. 'There is no man I respect more than Lloyd Bentsen,' oozed Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana in introduction. From the Republicans too it was the same sweet song: 'You're guaranteed my vote in advance,' purred Senator Phil Gramm, Mr Bentsen's colleague from Texas.

And, owlishly graceful and courtly as ever, Mr Bentsen responded with a line that could have come from an after-dinner speech at the Athenaeum: 'All this reminds me of the story of the old gentleman who received such a generous introduction - 'Be not surprised,' he said, 'It is but I' ' Thus does the US Senate treat its own.

For every Clinton nominee, the story has been the same. All have been spared embarrassment, even that unrepentant lobbyist and power- broker, Ron Brown, whose kidglove treatment during his hearing as Commerce Secretary last week had the New York Times spluttering with rage.

Yesterday, there was ample opportunity to embarrass the 71-year-old Mr Bentsen, not least over his sponsorship last year of a bill cutting middle-class taxes which was vetoed by President Bush. Mr Clinton, of course, is rowing back from his campaign promise of exactly such a fiscal boost as fast as he decently can. But Mr Bentsen blandly said no decision had yet been taken.

Just possibly, however, there may be surprises in store. Today sees the turn of Warren Christopher, that other great designated patriarch of the incoming administration. The Associated Press has unearthed an embarrassing 1960s memo suggesting that the 68- year-old Mr Christopher, the secretary of state-to-be who is ascribed almost saint-like qualities by the press, may have later concealed knowledge of clandestine army surveillance of anti-Vietnam war agitators, when he was deputy attorney-general under President Lyndon Johnson.

The revelation has had Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff members and Christopher aides scrambling in panic. But if yesterday's proceedings are anything to go by, the damage control will be successful. Mr Christopher probably need lose no sleep. But he may not quite be confirmed without a question.

Andrew Marr, page 21

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam