With populist fervor running high and the unemployment rate still hovering near 10 percent, bashing massive Wall Street pay packages might be consider a political no-brainer for Obama. But this week the president told Bloomberg he doesn't "begrudge" the "very savvy" CEOs of bailed-out banks J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs their seven- and eight-figure bonuses. He even offered a benign comparison to baseball players' salaries. Is Obama "carpet bombing" his presidency with a tone-deaf defense of Wall Street, or is everybody getting riled up over cherry-picked quotes? (Watch a report about Obama's rhetoric on Wall Street)
What was he thinking? "Oh. My. God," says Paul Krugman at The New York Times. If Obama's really "clueless" enough to equate market-driven baseball salaries with the "lemon socialism" that rewards bailed-out bankers for nearly killing the world economy (and sticking taxpayers with the tab), "we're doomed." He's not just being idiotic; praising Wall Street bonuses now is political suicide.
Obama can't afford liberal anger: "Obama praises capitalism?" Stop the presses! says Daniel Foster in National Review Online. It's just too bad his belated "softening toward capitalism" was so short-lived — he's already walking his comments back. Apparently even a "bland and uncontroversial" defense of the free-market system is too much for Obama's liberal base.
"News flash: Obama praises capitalism"
He couldn't afford populism, either: Obama's right to worry about alienating the left, says Ed Morrissey in Hot Air. But he needed to shift away from bashing "fat cat" bankers in order to repair strained relations with his "campaign ATM on Wall Street," which is now pumping out cash to more regulation-averse Republicans. Too bad for Obama that he needs both both Wall Street and the left in his camp in order to get re-elected.
"Obama changes tone towards Wall Street"
Obama's earned the right to be gentle in his criticism: The liberals "suffering conniption fits" need to explain why Obama's remarks are so upseting, says Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. If you read the transcript, Obama was actually "softly criticizing" Wall Street bonuses, days after — thanks to White House pressure — Goldman's CEO "slashed" his bonus by 80 percent, and converted it to stock.
"Don't begrudge Obama his Bloomberg quote"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
Subscribe to the Week