We weren’t impressed by Obama’s supposedly tough rhetoric on bankers on 60 Minutes (it pales next to what FDR dished out in his 1933 inaugural address, and discourse was more elevated then than now). It was namby pamby at best.
That limp-wristed effort to look more determined to Do Something to mask the fact that the real plan is to continue to Do Nothing about bankster excesses therefore led to a predictable outcome: a private meeting much softer in tone, one that merely harped on familiar themes. And Team Obama expects the chump public to buy this nonsense.
From Charles Gasparino:
Yes, White House spinmeisters advertised the gathering as a chance for Obama to channel the public’s disgust over Wall Street’s celebrating while Main Street still suffers 10 percent unemployment, thanks largely to Wall Street’s bungling. But that’s not what he did.
Obama started off with the obvious, reminding bankers that the bailout of insurance giant AIG benefited them because it meant they could actually collect on the AIG insurance policies (credit-default swaps) on their risky bond-market bets. But he also seemed to concede their dubious claim that some of them probably would’ve survived an AIG collapse, given all the other billions the government threw at them during the crisis.
After that, people with first-hand knowledge of the sitdown said, it was a heavily scripted affair — with none of the fireworks Obama displays in public.
Indeed, the White House last week sent the CEOs the president’s talking points: bonuses (too high), lending (more loans to small businesses), the need for more regulation of the financial business (support the bill now before Congress), etc.
So there were no surprises for the likes of Jaime Dimon of JP Morgan, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Mack of Morgan Stanley or Citigroup’s Richard Parsons. Said one CEO who attended: “I expected to be taken to the woodshed, but the tone was quite the opposite.”
Said another senior exec with knowledge of the meeting: “The whole thing was so telegraphed that not much was accomplished, other than giving Obama a PR stunt . . . He might have sounded mean on ’60 Minutes,’ but during the meeting he was a hell of a lot nicer.”
Gasparino and I have had our differences in the past (over Lehman) and I am therefore applaud him when he uses his extensive network of Wall Street contacts for reporting of this sort.