I didn’t vote for Mr. Obama, but I understood his appeal. Here was a fresh face, promising change, competence, and a new era of responsbility. Who doesn’t want that?
But after the past few weeks, you have to wonder how much of his claims were bluster, and how much are actually real. There has been no responsibility taken; there is no culpability, and certainly there has been no mea culpa.
Mr. Obama, at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night, said that the AIG mess was his responsibility. But when you take responsibility, Mr. President, you don’t follow it with excuses. “We didn’t draft these contracts. We’ve got a lot on our plate. But it is appropriate when you’re in charge to make sure stuff doesn’t happen like this,” Obama told a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, California. Why do we need excuses, if the problem is yours to deal with? Earlier in th day, Mr. Obama and his press secretary again blamed the Bush Administration for leaving this mess to them. Doesn’t sound like taking ownership of the problem to me.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has plenty to answer for as well. He was in charge of the New York Federal Reserve when they were having discussion regarding bonuses at AIG late last year. For him to state he only found out about them last week is ludicrous. Then, to compound matters, he could have been more upfront on the whole episode, but was not. On Thursday, the Secretary finally admitted that it was his department that asked for removal of bonus restrictions in the Stimulus Package, after denying the fact for days. Geithner decided that legally he had no authority to withold the bonuses. He may be right, but with his own president leading the mob against AIG, Geithner is frankly in the way. He is actually taking the most fire in this mess, but the President has said his job is safe. And now, it appears that Geithner will somehow have to diffuse the next bomb, the bonuses at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Then there is Senator Chris Dodd. Mr. Dodd, the biggest ally of AIG in Congress as well as the biggest recipient of AIG campaign contributions, conveniently forgot to tell the public that he was the one that neutered his own provision in the stimulus bill to limit bonuses on Wall Street. I wouldn’t mind, except he didn’t tell the truth on an interview with CNN yesterday; today, he came clean. Of course, he also threw Timothy Geithner and the Treasury Department under the bus by stating it was Treasury officials who asked him to change the law.
But Mr. Dodd isn’t the only one to get into the act. Almost every Congressman that could get in front of a camera in the last two days has jumped on the bandwagon, without taking any responsibility. Take Barney Frank, who objected to bonus limitation on Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac. Or Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who certainly could have stood up for bonuses to be revoked in cases of government bailouts, but did nothing. Not all Republicans are safe either, with Sen. Grassley leading the way. Republicans have slightly more cover considering most of them voted against the TARP in October, only to be attacked by the media for it. One final point: remember that most of the people you now hear complaining about the bonuses voted for the stimulus plan, which contained the law about allowing these firms to hand out bonuses. These Congressman didn’t have enough time to read the bill, but now are complaining about what they voted for. What goes around, comes around, I guess.
Nancy Pelosi, in her usual incompetent manner, refused to take any blame for this mess, completely laying the blame on Republicans and George W. Bush, conveniently forgetting that it was her stimulus plan that blocked restriction on bonuses. Again, politicians in power are reluctant to be culpable for anything.
The honest truth is that the Democrats were playing with a safety net for the past several years, and his name was George W. Bush. Anytime anything went wrong, Mr. Bush was a convenient (and truthfully, often a real) fall guy. Now, that net is gone. Mr. Obama has no one to blame for this mess other than himself and his colleagues. This was either incompetence or malfiescence on their part. It is always a bad thing when the President gets asked “What did you know, and when did you know it?”, especially when he can’t answer the question.
The time is long past when Mr. Obama states that this mess was his and his alone. No excuses, no explanations. Sure, I understand that it was not totally his mess. AIG is incompetent and foolish, but he has only his administration to blame for making what was a small matter in to a large fiasco. The only way to end this is to take the blame and move on. However, they feel that passing a 90% tax on those receiving bonuses will placate the public; they are wrong. The public is not only mad at Wall Street, they are sick and tired of incompetence from ou political leaders.
But instead of taking lame and movig on, Mr. Obama has spent much of the week feigning anger about the whole debacle. He succeeded in enraging the public, but what he still fails to understand is that the public is angry at the establishment, and that Mr. Obama is now the establishment. The President of the United States is the definition of Washington insider, and Obama hasn’t accepted that yet.
The arrogance of the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats, however, still stands out. Even on Wednesday, when they had clearly been shown to be completely amiss on the AIG bailout mess, they were still pointing to Mr. Obama’s personal polls as proof that all is well. David Axelrod said the public is not worried about AIG; is he kidding? They are living in a bubble; all polls are transient. The White House better start understanding that the campaign is over, and poll numbers don’t matter all that much. As long as the Obama people keep looking for scapegoats, it is unlikely the American people will be satisfied with the result.