"A Very Dangerous Thing"
Yesterday Chris Matthews asked Mark Halperin if all those wealthy wall street guys who are reportedly refusing to give money to Democrats are reaching a crisis in their lives and recognizing that supporting them is contrary to their class interest. (Seriously.)Halperin helpfully explained:
Chris both their falling love with Obama and now falling out of love with Obama is one of the most interesting sociological and psychological political stories going today. There are a lot of reasons why Wall Street sometimes goes to Democrats. First of all they are the party in power. Second, a lot of them are liberal on social issues or have spouses who are liberal on social issues. The past administration engaged in a war that was not popular on Wall Street and also ran up big deficits which Wall Street doesn't like. So I don't think there's one big reason.
Also Obama is great in Manhattan living rooms.I think that really helped him. Bill Clinton was the same way. They can come up to Manhattan and go into these salons and just court people with their charm, their intellect, their Ivy league degrees.
Matthews: But isn't it true that what they really want on Wall Street is lower taxes and less regulation?
Halperin: Well, there's great frustration within this administration as you know, Chris. There are people in there who say, "You know what? The country wants regulation of Wall Street, these people got rich and deserve everything they get out of this bill."
There are those, though, who consider that this administration's in almost a crisis, and not just because of the campaign contributions. But if the president wants to move a lot of his agenda --- immigration, energy,more on the economy --- he's going to need the support of people not just on Wall Street but in the wider business community and right now you're right, they're thinking about their self-interest.
And administration officials are frustrated. They call them in, they have meetings with them and they ask, "what should we do?" and they basically say "cut our taxes."
Matthews: Well you know we hear these stories like I do Mark, we all hear them that say the president doesn't have any warmth for Israel, you hear that he doesn't have any warmth for business people generally. He's sort of a liberal, a progressive you know, he's for the third world, you know he looks out for the Palestinians, he looks out for poor people. He doesn't have any sympathy for rich guys. But you know, in the Democratic party you've got to get your money from these guys. You have to make friends with them personally. You and I know this. You make personal friendships. Is that the conflict here? He's asking these people to be traitors to their class basically and they're tired of it. They don't want that part anymore.
Halperin: They think he should be wearing a beret and standing off playing hackeysack...
Matthews: What does that mean?
Halperin: check with the junior staff there, that's what they play during the breaks.
Look, he did not have relationships with a lot of business executives when he was a Senator. He's just not been on the national scene long enough. He does not have a reservoir of good will. It's been widely said there are not a lot of people in this administration with ties to the business community.
So now Chris, you find the same thing. Anybody who travels around the country and talks to people in business finds they not only think he's too liberal, they don't think he knows a thing about the economy.
Matthews: That's what I hear...
Halperin: And that's a very dangerous thing. Because any Democratic president has a high hurdle. Bill Clinton knew this and he worked it hard, with Bob Rubin and others. He was constantly thinking "how do I keep the pentagon on my side and how do I keep the business community on my side?" This president is in a dangerous place with the business community and Wall Street and the regulation bill. When this thing passes and they have a signing ceremony, it's going to push a lot of Democrats further away from the White House, and that's dangerous again, not just for his campaign contributions but for his agenda.
To paraphrase James Baker, I guess the idea would be "fuck the citizens, they don't vote for us anyway." (That begs the question of whether it would ever be possible to win elections, but perhaps that really is beside the point.)
Halperin went on like that for while longer basically spouting the same odd notion that the president can't pass his agenda if businessmen don't get a tax cut, until Matthews did finally note that the people are fairly miffed at the Big Money Boyz and the president has to place the blame somewhere. Halperin replied, correctly, that the BMBs are a bunch of sniveling Fauntleroys whose feelings are hurt by even the slightest criticism, so it's not even enough for the reform bill to be watered down, he has to publicly defend their honor as well. (Which, by the way, he does.)So playing the blame game is off the table.
I get that Democrats want the Fat Cats' money. And I get that they all have class solidarity and want jobs after they leave office --- and that the trophy wives think Democrats are dreamy. But what law of nature says that the Democrats must seek permission from the business community in order to pass their agenda? I realize that most of the congress is bought and paid for, but I didn't get the feeling that Halperin's comments were aimed at that. It appears he truly believes that passing legislation which the leaders of the business community and Wall Street don't perceive to be in their self-interest is something no competent leader would ever do --- regardless of the circumstances. (His passing comment about the Pentagon reveals a similar belief about foreign policy.)It's rare to see a top Villager express this so openly. But then Halperin is a special case.
And I think I'm going to really going to enjoy watching this pairing of the febrile Tweety and the oddly robotic Halperin trading insights from their respective bizarroworld perspectives. As a citizen I'm fairly appalled. As a blogger well... it just doesn't get any better than this.