Willful Misunderstanding

by digby

The media, for reasons I don't quite understand, still seem to think they've caught Chris Dodd lying about something. As dday pointed out last night, we knew that high officials in the Obama administration were lobbying for the carve-out provision be put into the conference report and Dodd confirming that is simply not news. For some reason, all day today, the media seemed convinced that there was some mystery surrounding this event and were passing on dark suspicions that this happened because Dodd took AIG money (as did a whole bunch of other politicians) when that clearly wasn't the motive. It was all very confusing.

Dodd tried to explain this on TV today but unfortunately he didn't do it very well and was understood to have admitted to doing something nefarious, which isn't the case. He thought he was making a common comprimise with the administration.

Here's Greenwald's explanation of Dodd's comments today:

I'm receiving email regarding the remarks Dodd made today on CNN in which he stated that, at the White House's insistence and over his objections, he agreed to include the pre-February, 2009 carve-out in the stimulus bill. Some of these emailers have suggested that Dodd's comments are at odds with what I wrote. They quite plainly are not.

The narrative I wrote here (and which Hamsher wrote in her post) both included exactly that sequence:

That was the exact provision that Geithner and Summers demanded and that Dodd opposed. And even after Dodd finally gave in to Treasury's demands, he continued to support an amendment from Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe to impose fines on bailout-receiving companies which paid executive bonuses."

I explicitly wrote that it was Dodd who, after arguing vehemently against this provision, ultimately agreed to its inclusion. And the statement from Dodd's office that I quoted above included the same series of events ("Because of negotiations with the Treasury Department and the bill Conferees, several modifications were made, including adding the exemption"). That's exactly what Dodd said today on CNN.

The point was -- and is -- that Dodd was pressured to put that carve-out in at the insistence of Treasury officials (whose opposition meant that Dodd's choices were the limited compensation restriction favored by Geithner/Summers or no limits at all), and Dodd did so only after arguing in public against it. To blame Dodd for provisions that the White House demanded is dishonest in the extreme, and what Dodd said today on CNN about the White House's advocacy of this provision confirms, not contradicts, what I wrote.

Dodd did not indict the administration in his comments today. He didn't name any names and he said that he didn't think AIG was on the radar at all at the time. He was being a good soldier, as he was when he agreed to the changes thinking he was compromising. But at some point he may have to name names since somebody in Washington is determined that he take the fall for these bonuses and the press is on the hunt to prove that the Obama administration has been lying about when they knew about it.

That is, of course, not really the point, but it's the kind of thing that makes for a village scandal. They'd better get ahead of this right now. The only thing that's keeping things from devolving into a frenzy is the fact that the fatuous gasbags on the right aren't on the same page. That's not much to hold on to. I don't see this ending well.