Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan slams US President George W Bush in his upcoming memoir, accusing the president of failing to curb runaway government spending.
Although Bush's election in 2000 had been a moment of high expectation, the president had been unwilling to veto out-of-control spending and turned an unprecedented surplus in the budget into a large deficit during his administration, wrote Greenspan, also a Republican.
Greeenspan's The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World is being published Monday. The widely respected economist, now 81 years old, led the rate-setting US central bank for more than 18 years from 1987-2006.
He was first appointed by President Ronald Reagan of the centre- right Republican Party, but re-appointed by President Bill Clinton of the centre-left Democratic Party.
In the book, which runs to 531 pages, Greenspan blasts both Bush and the leaders of the recently ousted Republican congressional majority for their lax attitude to debt.
However, he singles out former President Clinton for praise, describing Clinton's policies to curb the deficit as courageous, according to excerpts from the book published Saturday in the Washington Post.
On Bush, Greenspan writes: "I thought we had a golden opportunity to advance the ideals of effective, fiscally conservative government and free markets ... I was soon to see my old friends veer off to unexpected directions."
Unprecedented large federal budget surpluses "were gone six to nine months after George W Bush took office" and "little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long- term consequences," Greenspan criticizes.
"My biggest frustration remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending. Not exercising the veto power became a hallmark of the Bush presidency. ... To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake," Greenspan writes.
By comparison, he praises Clinton's "more old-fashioned attitude towards debt," but says the effects of Clinton's administration were diluted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Greenspan's book is likely to have an effect on the race to the next presidential elections in 2008 in the US, in which Clinton's wife Hillary hopes to run as candidate for the Democrats.
In side comments Greenspan even goes as far as blasting Bush's war on Iraq, saying: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."
Under Bush, governance in Washington had become "dangerously dysfunctional," the economist comments.
The Republicans controlled one or both chambers of Congress since 1995 but lost both the Senate and House of Representatives in a sweeping defeat in the November 2006 mid-term elections.
Greenspan also criticizes the now-ousted leaders of the former Republican majority: "The Republicans in Congress lost their way. They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."
Factors in the current budget situation were a brief recession and slow economic growth in the first years of the Bush presidents, major tax cuts, higher defence spending, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sharp increases in politically expedient domestic spending on programmes such as infrastructure, agricultural subsidies and prescription drugs for pensioners. dpa ff emc