Presidential Populism

by digby


President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

He's not a stupid man. The only thing you can conclude is that this is a matter of principle for him and that he truly believes that these people are worth that kind of money despite the fact that they nearly destroyed the world financial system and are benefiting from its chaos and failure.

And it clarifies once and for all that he doesn't understand the very real angst out in the country and the desperate need to hold someone, somewhere, accountable for what's gone wrong. Evidently, he's perfectly content to allow the government to take the blame for the whole sorry mess.

The owners will be pleased, I'm sure. This was just two days ago on MSNBC:

The New York Times writes how Wall Street is threatening to no longer shower the Democratic Party with campaign contributions -- and is even beginning to donate more to Republicans -- now with the White House pushing for financial reform. 

Could the White House and Democrats have asked for a better headline here?

Evidently, that wasn't a headline they wanted at all. Indeed, it seems to have pushed the president into publicly defending the most despised men in the country, which proves in living color just how much power those people have. Clearly, the Democrats understand their priorities and winning elections isn't one them.

 Obama's "one from column A and one from column B" approach has always frustrated me, but I think it's really starting to take its toll. At this point, he just seems bipolar not bipartisan, ranting about wall street one day and saying that Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are jolly good fellows who deserve their obscene bonuses the next. Do they think that nobody notices --- or just feel in their bones -- that he's trying to be all things to all people? I don't think it inspires confidence.

Update: Greg Sargent has the transcript which does show the context as slightly different. I'm not sure it changes the general thrust of the interpretation. Obama vouching for Dimon and Blankfein in any context is a monumental error.

And I still maintain that "nuance" of this sort isn't working. At this point it's confusing not illuminating.