Obama’s reference to “a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street” might well signify our collective anger at those at AIG, Citibank, Bank of America, and the failed banks, who doled out large bonuses despite their failures — failures that hurt so many beyond their small circle. Yet the president’s latest Chicago-style populist attack raises several questions:
1) Is it wise to disparage people right before you beg them to start lending and help your economic-recovery plan? That is sort of like saying surgeons are tonsil-pullers and leg-loppers while you need their support for health care, or attacking the Chamber of Commerce even as you want it to encourage small-business hiring.
2) Does the condemnation include fat-cat Clintonite Robert Rubin (who earned nearly $115 million from Citigroup and served as a mentor to Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner) or the administration’s own Larry Summers (who collected more than $5 million for a year’s work at a hedge fund, and another Rubin protégé)? One could mention other liberals who cashed in at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, such as James Johnson, aide to former Democratic vice president Walter Mondale, Franklin Raines, budget director under Bill Clinton, Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration – and Rahm Emanuel, a Freddie Mac board member who did quite well, despite the implosion. And does Obama wish to talk about the fat-cat bankers’ relationship with Congress, as exemplified by the Chris Dodd case, or Charlie Rangel’s various tax shenanigans and shakedowns?
3) If fat-cat bankers are villains, then why did the Obama administration outraise John McCain on Wall Street? I don’t know whether his fat-cat benefactors consider the Obama charge a sign of hypocrisy or ingratitude — but it is certainly odd to receive tens of millions from Wall Street grandees and then call them “a bunch of fat-cat bankers,” especially after hiring quite a few of them.