The Corner

Wall Street Democrats, Florida Edition

Forbes on subprime-shorting mogul Jeff Greene, who is buying into the Democratic primary in the Florida U.S. Senate race. It’s a small financial world, after all:

In early 2006 Greene called hedge fund manager John Paulson of Paulson & Co., to whom he had been introduced in the Hamptons a few years earlier. Greene says J.P., as he calls Paulson, suggested he could short real estate by buying insurance on bonds backed by subprime loans.

Paulson, Paulson … where have I heard that name?

If Greene were a Republican, he’d be crucified for his subprime connections and his self-indulgent mode of living. (He brought Heidi Fleiss home for Passover. “We weren’t dating,” he explains.) A Republican with his CV would be dead in the water. But if you ask me, Greene sounds like a heck of a guy, whatever his politics are: self-made, disciplined, even modest, in his way:

“In real estate you make 10% of your money because you’re a genius and 90% because you catch a great wave,” he says. “I caught the biggest wave in the history of New England.”

Some of his fellow Democrats are already coming down on him — not because he’s a rich-guy plutocrat who made his money investing in ways that demagogic Democrats treat as illegitimate, but because he has vulgar, nouveau riche habits. For Democrats, he’s the wrong kind of rich guy: son of a Hebrew-school teacher from Worcester, not a Kennedy.

Gabriel Winant writes in Salon:

I’d say this guy gives new meaning to the term “gauche new money,” but he doesn’t, because those words are clearly inadequate to describe him. Maybe the Russians have some term for this.

New money! May as well be a Republican!

There’s a strange kind of snobbery on the left. The Kennedys are the most embarrassing family in the United States without their own reality show, but they’re treated as royalty. A guy who put himself through school, saved his pennies, and got rich enough to give Forbes an interview from the deck of his yacht? An embarrassment.

I don’t get it: Greene’s story looks like the American dream to me, even if he’s tacky in spending his green. In fact, the whole Florida field says something good about America: The guy Greene is running against for the Democratic nomination, Kendrick Meek, is the son of a member of Congress. But he’s also the grandson of sharecroppers and the great-grandson of slaves. Our guy, Marco Rubio, is the son of Cuban exiles — his mother was a hotel maid and Kmart clerk, his father a bartender. God bless America.

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