Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On of my Favorite Stategists Weighs In

Bob Shrum, who has always been one of my favorite strategists, weighs in on a little bit of everything going on in and around President Obama. Bob has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

So, as you can see he has plenty of experience and is pretty knowing about all things political and Democratic.

Here is what he had to say:

In my time in politics, I was often called a populist—and I don’t mind. To me, the idea is to confront entrenched interests and to build, as Al Gore said, “a stronger, fairer, more prosperous society.”

But the panicked spasm that drove Congress’s approach to the AIG bonuses represents a phony populism that wouldn’t even dent the systemic maldistribution of opportunity in America. The bonuses were both tone-deaf politics and indefensible policy. If the company’s CEO was unwilling to put a stop payment order on $165 million lavished on executives of the very AIG unit that had helped infect the global system with risky financial instruments, then he’s not worth the dollar a year he’s currently paid. But Congress’s rush to impose a 90 percent tax—not just on the AIG bonuses, but on bonuses at every enterprise receiving federal assistance—would punish sound financial managers along with irresponsible manipulators.

The tax couldn’t even be collected from British citizens who work in the London offices of American companies. Moreover, the tax provision—and the threat of more of the same—would be a disincentive to executives who make the right decisions and aid the restoration of credit markets and the financial system.

Instead of seeking a solution, Washington is searching for scapegoats. And in the present atmosphere, where psychic satisfaction trumps accountability or economic sense, the scapegoats aren’t limited to Wall Street. Two others are already in the shoot—Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. The biggest one of all—President Barack Obama—has been positioned at the gate.

In February, Geithner was blamed for delaying the bank rescue plan when he decided that the blueprint on the drawing boards was defective. Evidently his critics believe that he should have pursued the financial version of the Rumsfeld approach—act first, think later. Then, he compounded his offense by failing to block the AIG bonuses—his critics aren’t quite sure how he should have—and he is accused of lying about what he knew and when. Alabama’s Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, who hasn’t had a single constructive thought during the entire crisis, happily predicted that Geithner “won’t last long.”

Shelby is a paragon of responsibility compared to the House Republicans’ new shooting star, Eric Cantor, who offered the most demagogic and dangerous idea of all: stop the bailouts for AIG and perhaps other firms, thus risking another, even bigger, financial meltdown. As a member of a bankrupt party, it seems Cantor wishes a similar fate on the rest of us.

Rather than get bogged down in costly recriminations and cheap thrills, Geithner has announced a bank rescue plan that enlists private capital and is sensible and likely to be effective. He will soon shed his scapegoat status; sorry, Senator Shelby, Geithner will “last long.”

The road to redemption will be longer for Chris Dodd, who’s been blamed for doing the wrong thing because he tried to do the right thing. Just a month ago, he wrote an amendment into the stimulus bill that provided limits and oversight on Wall Street bonuses and golden parachutes. For his pains, Dodd was roundly attacked by financial executives who claimed his amendment was too restrictive. Later, an exemption for previously agreed payments was inserted into the legislation at the request of policy wonks and lawyers from the Administration. Everyone who’s ever worked on Capitol Hill knows how this works; legislation is vetted and altered in the last stages, usually by staff and often late at night. The change permitted AIG’s bonuses—although Dodd continued to be assailed by many on Wall Street.

Dodd is now scorned for being “bought” by campaign contributions from AIG executives. In the style of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland—first the verdict, then the trial—he’s been pronounced guilty for facilitating the bonus abuse he tried to prevent. Dodd, for whom I was a strategist and media adviser in 1998, seems doomed to remain a scapegoat until the end of his 2010 re-election campaign. By then, the facts may at last catch up with the smears.

A third scapegoat headed for the shoot this week is Barack Obama. New York Times columnist Frank Rich, who often captures the deeper meaning of events, misfired this time, labeling the AIG episode Obama’s “Katrina moment.” The President’s offense was insufficient anger, compounded by his decision to rely on financial experts like Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers. Is Obama instead supposed to call on Joe the Plumber?

Rich at least gave Obama credit for taking responsibility—“more than he needed to, given the disaster he inherited.” Other critics were not so measured. How dare Obama talk to Jay Leno in this time of economic distress—even though Obama used his “Tonight Show” appearance as a kind of fireside chat to explain his policies in clear and colloquial terms. How dare he laugh on “60 Minutes” when he ruefully noted the streams of conflicting advice that pour in everyday.

One of Obama’s greatest strengths, however, is that he keeps his cool. He’s calm and centered on the big issues. He defended Geithner even before the markets validated the Treasury Secretary as the 497-Point Man on Monday. The President knows, as he’s said, that he’ll be judged by “results.” And to achieve results, he’s willing to resist the distractions and expedient excesses of anger that could impede progress. If the Republicans were as mature, they might finally come to understand that politics has to stop at the edge of the financial cliff. And maybe the rest of us could decide that if Barack Obama can keep his cool, then we can keep ours.

The emphasis is mine.. I thought this was something that was really out of line. To compare Pres. Obama's handling of the AIG bonus fiasco to Bush's handling of Katrina?? No, I am sorry. Frank Rich was way out of line on that one. I agree with Bob. How could he even suggest something like that? How could anyone think that because Pres. Obama didn't get as angry as everyone might have wanted him to be that would be the same as ignoring a city drowning, playing on his ranch in Texas, eating birthday cake with McCain. Then flying over and finally watching a CD of the damage 5 days later and saying oh wow, it's bad huh.. That's what you think Pres. Obama has done with AIG??

Give. Me. A. Break.

Do you remember during the campaign.. One of the things everyone made the comment was that Pres. Obama was Mr. Cool.. He wasn't going to fly off the handle and be like McCain.. He was going to think before he acted.. He wouldn't do the GUT reactions like Bush did. That's why people liked him.. Now because he wasn't angry enough, this is his Katrina moment...

I reject that. Simply reject that.

I will hold off on my other thoughts for another post. I have said before how I feel about Tim Geithner, so there is no reason to post it again. I will just close it here. I hope I didn't step on any toes, but I just think Rich was over the line and Bob said it better than I ever could.


enigma4ever said...

thanks for posting this...I am not sure where I stand to be honest..I hope by posting Rich I did not upset you...I am concerned about this moment...but not because it is a ONE Moment- but the first of many to come....

I trust Obama, but some of those that work for him, I am worried about...Geither because he does not seem to get what is happening in/on Mainstreet, and Romer- she seems clueless....

but that is just me- worrying...I have faith in Obama...but I just worry about the DC bubble...

Obama has to cope with years of Bushs negligent criminal mess....it is unreal...

and the GOP is obstructing like idiots- yet they handed Bush whatever the hell he wanted....

Annette said...

You did not upset me.. you are entitled to your opinion, but I just don't think there is any comparison. To call the lack of showing anger the same as the lack of compassion and reaction to a natural disaster the size of Katrina with the scope of it and the loss of life.. I am sorry, that's just wrong. Rich is just wrong. I don't see the comparison at all. And to say that one thing like this.. something that everyone always said was a strong point of Pres. Obama's is now a failure and the end of his presidency, 60 days in.. that's what Katrina was to bush wasn't it.. plus a loss of how many lives and the destruction of a city..
Yes, $165 million is a lot of money, but I am not seeing the destruction of a city, the loss of life, and the ending of a presidency in this.

And no, I don't think Dr. Romer is out of touch.. I think she is a very well educated woman who is very spot on with her analysis, and is as so many others painted in the light of the media to look bad. Just as Geithner and all the others have been. Maybe it is just my seeing them in my jaded view, but I just don't look at them through the media eye..

You have to remember, most of the interviewers and the people on the TeeVee are on the right side of politics... and they slant things in that direction... just because we hear all the time we have a liberal media doesn't make it true. So you have to cut through the bull shit to see the truth.. At least that's what I do... or try to do.

And yes.. the retards are obstructing everything.. just like we figured they would... but what is worse is that the democrats are helping them.. and as long as we are sitting here helping the democrats by talking like Krugman does most of them time, and as Rich did.. that just walks right into their hands.