We think it's our job here in the BuzzPost to call it like we see it -- and what we're seeing this Monday morning from North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad is nothing less than either blind stupidity or record-setting hubris. In an op-ed "defense" published Monday by the Wall Street Journal, Conrad says that he never asked for special treatment on a series of mortgages he obtained from Countrywide, and that while he did talk with Angelo Mozilo about his mortgage, he wasn't aware of special treatment:
Here are the facts: In 2002 I was looking for a mortgage and went to several lending institutions. I also called a close friend of mine who knew a lot about mortgages for advice. My friend happened to be with the head of Countrywide Financial when I called and put him on the line. I spoke with a gentleman by the name of Angelo Mozilo for about 30 seconds ... In 2004, I also financed an eight-unit apartment building in Bismarck, North Dakota. It is true Countrywide did not typically finance buildings with more than four units. But ...
Conrad says in his "defense" that Countrywide waived fees and points on a mortgage he received, but that he didn't see it as special treatment -- and he adds the obligatory "nothing is more important to me than the public's trust" line. We're not buying any of it. Not after he scrambled to donate money to charity equaling the past value of a benefit he received from Mozilo. Not after he admits to getting a multi-family loan from Countrywide that the company didn't offer other borrowers. The fact that he finds it to be non-sensational that he called Angelo Mozilo to get a mortgage, or that he blindly followed a friends "advice" on who to call to get a great mortgage, is disturbing. This is a U.S. Senator we're talking about here, for crying out loud. How many HW readers have called and spoken to Ken Lewis when opening a savings account at Bank of America? And if you had, would you have characterized the experience as nothing out of the ordinary? In the end, we don't know which is more troubling: Conrad lying through his teeth, or Conrad actually telling the truth (meaning that he was oblivious to his status). Both Conrad and fellow Senator Chris Dodd would have us believe that being a VIP -- being a Senator of the United States of America -- didn't lead them to believe they were getting VIP treatment from Countrywide. There's either extreme hubris in that sort of defense, or extreme stupidity. Neither are what we should expect from our elected officials.