Maybe Man learns the art of plain speaking - for once

Rupert Cornwell,Washington
Sunday 06 April 1997 23:02
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Yesterday, there were no ifs, buts, or other verbal obfuscations about it. With a simple, irrevocable "I Do" that allowed no misinterpretation, that delphic oracle of global financial markets, the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, was getting married.

Washington, proverbially, is a city were powerful officials and powerful reporters need each other. Even so, the Greenspan match is carrying matters to extremes. His bride is Andrea Mitchell, once NBC's one-woman assault team at the White House, now marginally less visible but no less aggressive as the network's correspondent covering the State Department.

Details of the ceremony were initially kept as tight as the deliberations of the Fed committee which sets interest rates - and threw markets into turmoil by raising them a fortnight ago. But the lavish truth began to filter out. The pair (a second marriage for both of them) were tying the knot at the opulent Inn at Little Washington in the Virginia countryside. Guests were then to sip champagne on a one-hour bus tour of the hunt country in spring time, perhaps indulging in a little of that "irrational exuberance" which Mr Greenspan famously abhors in the markets.

Despite his 71 years and perpetually lugubrious public mien, the chairman is said to be quite a wit in private, as well as an accomplished tennis player and saxophonist. But his true fame resides in his capacity for foggy circumlocution, unparalleled even among central bankers celebrated for their gobbledygook.

"If I've made myself too clear," he once told an eager innocent in Congress, "you must have misunderstood me." It seems Ms Mitchell, 50, almost did too, when the proposal came at Christmas. "He's a man who's very careful with his words. I just didn't get it until the third time."

But most important of all, how will the markets react "I'm bullish," financial analyst Al Goldman of St Louis avers, "it's one of the 10 reasons I'm still positive about this market. Greenspan will be a much more mellow fellow on Monday - I hope."

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