The Corner

The President, Wall Street, and Its Occupiers

There was a lot of attention given to President Obama’s purported praise for the Occupy Wall Street movement in the context of his recent speech. But he really wasn’t focusing on his hecklers specifically as much as inclusively, as the transcript shows (i.e., Occupy Wall Streeters are just one of his constituent groups):

And families like the Corkerys, families like yours, young people like the ones here today, including the ones who were just chanting at me, you’re the reason I ran for office in the first place.

I think this ad lib is basically accurate: Most of the aims of the OWS movement, to the extent they can be defined, are similar to what Obama believed as state legislator, senator, and presidential candidate. No news there. Anyway, by now the liberal narrative about OWS is that an idealistic group of protesters angry made their impassioned point about inequality when a few raucous outsiders joined in and got themselves negative coverage in the right-wing news.

For Obama, it simply does not register as a problem that one can praise OWS and still use high office to find investment advantages not accessible to others (as the Pelosis did), or damn Wall Street and yet become its largest campaign-fund recipient in history (as the president himself did), or caricature such habits as junketing in Vegas while gravitating to Martha’s Vineyard in preference to Camp David.

In Obama’s mind, there are two Wall Streets, and they have nothing to do with actual conduct or profit making. The “good” blue Wall Streeters and CEOs — Corzine, Soros, Immelt, the Solyndra execs, Buffett, Gates, etc. — understand that their conduct may be no different from (or sometime far worse than) that of the “bad” red Wall Streeters, but they are still far more enlightened and caring people. Because they support progressive causes, from global warming to higher taxes, their misconduct — MF Global’s missing hundreds of millions, Soros’s past felonious insider speculations, Buffett’s efforts to pay reduced taxes, Gates’s noble avoidance of inheritance taxes, Solyndra’s con — matters less.

In other words, they are “our” guys in the den of inequity who do noble service either by exposing themselves to filthy lucre to channel some of it back to noble causes, or descending into the blazing Inferno to enlighten us about how such a hellish place works (as Joe Biden more or less implied when he praised Corzine). Once that exemption is established, then one cares little whether Immelt exports jobs or his company pays no U.S. income taxes, or whether Soros is the modern epitome of a 19th-century financial pirate. The only mystery is the level of cynicism involved. Are we to believe that a certain sort of clever profiteer does not go against the political grain in order to feel acceptable in the right cultural circles, to avoid popular criticism — and, on occasion, to have far more avenues to profit?

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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