Green Room

Obama 2010: Pitchforks and Arugula

posted at 6:58 am on January 23, 2010 by

Message: I care, you bitter clingers!

Since his party lost the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, pundits have been proclaiming President Barack Obama in need of a new message. As this week drew to a close, he offered some samples of what it will sound like.

Turning up the volume on the fiery populist rhetoric he’s been deploying against the Wall Street “fat cats” that have become a favorite target, Obama signaled that he intends to pursue new Wall Street regulations as well as health care reform, despite his party having lost its 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.

Of course, Obama played the faux-populism card in the 2008 campaign, too. The reality was a bit different.

Barack Obama’s first major step on the campaign trail — in December 2006 — was to Wall Street, where he snagged the backing of convicted inside trader George Soros and investment banker Robert Wolf, who became CEO of UBS Americas. Before the Wall Street meltdown got into full swing, Swiss banking giant UBS had written off more debt from the subprime mortgage crisis than any other bank; a number of Obama’s top bundlers came from with firms mired in that mess. Such bundlers raised at least 22 percent of Obama’s money during the first half of 2007, and got perks from the Obama campaign. Indeed, Obama’s national campaign-finance chairwoman, Penny Pritzker, helped run Superior Bank — which was at the forefront of securitizing of subprime mortgages, until it collapsed in 2001.

When Wall Street went into meltdown mode, the establishment media ignored that Obama got big donations from associates of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and was one of the all-time recipents of political cash from Lehman Brothers. Before the election Obama voted for TARP. After the election, Obama twisted arms to get the second half of the TARP money, and packed the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place.

Over time, this information seems to have seeped into the bloodstream of the body politic:

The administration’s bank policies have been a political stumbling block, perhaps as much as health care, according to polls: National Journal polling has found that 76 percent see the administration’s response to the financial crisis as benefiting (separate categories lumped together here) banks, investment companies, major corporations, and wealthy individuals. AFL-CIO-sponsored polling by Hart Research found that, in Massachusetts, 61 percent said recession policies have helped large banks a lot or a fair amount, vs. 18 percent who said the same of working people.

In The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote that he served as a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” After a year in the Oval Office, the screen is no longer blank. Selling Obama as a populist may prove to be tough sledding.

Ironically, recent reports hint that Obama is taking more economic advice from astroturfer-in-chief David Axelrod, and less from Treasury Secretary Timmy “The Tax Cheat” Geithner. The new, populist proposals not only would not have applied to last year’s meltdown, but might have prevented commercial banks from rescuing investment banks, which would have left taxpayers with a much larger bailout bill. The best argument for Obama’s latest proposal is that some banks have been gaming the current system to access TARP funds. The correct solution to that problem would be to wind down TARP, but Obama’s allies want to keep it going as a slush fund.

Thus, Obama finds himself in a position where the public likely won’t buy him as a populist, even as investors overwhelmingly find him too anti-business and lack confidence of his ability to handle a financial emergency. Well played, sir.

Recently in the Green Room:



Trackback URL


Hope! Change!

MTF on January 23, 2010 at 7:43 AM

Ojesus is killing our economy one grin at a time. Even sensible Democrats (oxymoron alert) are fleeing this disaster of a president like he is an Ebola carrier.

Leadership is desperately needed from somewhere, and soon.

hillbillyjim on January 23, 2010 at 8:18 AM

The President has a plan. Unfortunately, it involves destroying America as we know it.

yoda on January 23, 2010 at 9:21 AM

No one is going to be able to get around zero to help the economy if he doesn’t want it helped. There has to be a 3 point shot from somewhere that will get businesses back into business. You can only hunker down for so long before making a move. Wall Street was starting to make a comeback before zero opened his mouth. Seems like he wants to put a lid on them for awhile longer.

Kissmygrits on January 23, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Obama continues to paint himself into a corner. His options shrink. One problem is that he’s lied so many times about so many things — not least of all about his own persona — that any reinvention of himself is hobbled from the start. His townhall meetings are now just weird — filled with incoherent populism, self-conscious outbursts of defiance, rather revealing denials of Narcissism, and generally choppy and maladroit rhetoric. He shows no signs of humility, educability or genuine concern for the mood of the country or people he’s supposed to be leading.

These are dangerous signs for all of us.

rrpjr on January 23, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Oneterma is going to fight for us now? Yeah, good luck with that 180, Barry.

Al Gore “was for the people, not the powerful” in 2000. Phony leftist populism worked so well for President Gore.

ChrisB on January 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM

The anti-health-insurance-industry, anti-special-interest-power rhetoric has been a staple of Obama speeches since early summer, as he has used that language to press for health reform. But in his speech on Friday, anti-Washington-ism and standing up for the little guy was showcased more prominently as a frame for his entire presidency.

An elitist, arrogant, snob…was, is, will be a SNOB.

The U.S. Americans are pretty naive, but they’re not that dumb, Pinocchio in Chief.

Schadenfreude on January 23, 2010 at 2:24 PM

Although Joe Biden is incredibly incompetent I think he would be less destructive than the Obambi. At least Joe could be managed by someone with some brains.

Metanis on January 23, 2010 at 2:27 PM

These are dangerous signs for all of us.

rrpjr on January 23, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Yes, but also for the Dems facing election next year. Unlike those who believe the Blue Dogs and others would take a personal hit to support the leftist dream of universal health care, I’d bet on the survival instinct. The Won is running out of places to hide.

Barnestormer on January 23, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Oops, it IS Jan.–later this year.

Barnestormer on January 23, 2010 at 2:28 PM

This will not end well. We will not enjoy it. It will not be short.

jukin on January 23, 2010 at 2:44 PM

The strongest sign that Emperor Arugula has learned nothing?

Watch the upcoming State of the Union Address.

I will bet that it’s actually nothing but “The State of Obama” address, that he will spin, spin, spin, shake his fist, say “let me be perfectly clear” a half-dozen times and then scamper off stage to the scattered applause of the duller of the MSM sycophants and a handful of “last-ditchers” who are so wedded to this imbecile that they have no other options.

Watch. He’s so much smarter than all of us. There’s nothing to improve!

heldmyw on January 23, 2010 at 2:46 PM


GarandFan on January 23, 2010 at 2:59 PM

The President has a plan. Unfortunately, it involves destroying America as we know it.

yoda on January 23, 2010 at 9:21 AM

The Cylons had a plan and we know how that turned out.

scullymj on January 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM

To terminate authority under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and for other purposes.

YEAs 53

NAYs 45


marinetbryant on January 23, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Breaking News: The 2010 SOTU speech in accordance with a fictitious parliamentary procedure has been postponed indefinitely because the presenter is in such trouble right now that he can’t think of a way to bullshjt his way out of this quagmire.

Americannodash on January 23, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Astute, Karl. Nice work.

BJ* on January 23, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Driving down the value of people’s 401(k)-s isn’t going to make him any friends

J_Crater on January 23, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Breaking News!

After a telephone conversation seeking advice from former President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama held a press conference in which he announced his new message to the American people:

“Let me be clear. I feel my pain!”

Ordinary American on January 23, 2010 at 3:59 PM

This will not end well. We will not enjoy it. It will not be short.
jukin on January 23, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Yes. Like nothing we’ve seen.

rrpjr on January 23, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Of course Obama’s anticorporate populism is a smokescreen… he is a progressive!

I sometimes read the leftist/progressive/liberal websites, just to see what the other side is thinking. Lately, they seem to be thinking Obama is secretly right wing, mainly because of Obama’s supposed “pandering” to corporations. Such opinions are sad because they betray a complete lack of understanding of leftism’s/progressivism’s development and history.

Two widespread, yet false, assumptions underlie their anger:
1. Corporations are inherently rightwing/conservative…
2. Libs/progs and corporations are natural enemies…
Neither of these assumptions hold up to even the barest of historical reviews.

The belief that progressives and corporations are always at war is a post-60’s artifact. Before then, every form of progressivism (except full-blown Marxism) was a variation of Corporate Statism. From Social Democracy to Fascism to the New Deal, all of the wealth redistributing do-gooders of the past relied on corporate-government-labor partnerships to efficiently run a nation’s economy for the benefit of the many. No form of progressivism (except, again, full-blown Marxism) wanted the headache of day-to-day running of business — they preferred to leave the dirty work to others… the so-called “good corporate citizens” who would knuckle under to the wishes of their distant government masters.

So, to any progressives who may read this: Obama hasn’t betrayed your movement… he sits squarely in its historical mainstream. It is you who are out of step. Progressivism is the rule by big corporations and big labor, working in harmony under big government, in order to maximize and distribute a nation’s wealth. To be an anticorporate progressive is an oxymoron and quite ahistorical… and the primacy of the individual was seen as a major roadblock on the way to man’s “bright future”.

stevieray on January 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

This post has been promoted to

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on January 23, 2010 at 4:38 PM

So actually, I guess you could call THE ONE a Wall Street Fat cat

Rick554 on January 23, 2010 at 5:48 PM

stevieray on January 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

Excellent points. I would add, as historian Burton Folsom has described, corporations can be divided into political entrepreneurial and market entrepreneurial. James Hill’s Great Northern Railroad got big without a dime of government subsidy, land grant, or line of credit.

AshleyTKing on January 23, 2010 at 6:01 PM

HotAir — Politics, Culture, Media, 2017, Breaking News from a conservative viewpoint
Top Pick


“Felix was out on bond after threatening another public servant and has a history of making threats.”

Chaffetz: House needs housing allowances?

Ed Morrissey Jun 27, 2017 8:41 PM

“There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don’t know how healthy that is long term.”

“This isn’t going to get a lot cheaper, it can’t, it won’t.”

“…what we failed to achieve with votes, we would do with weapons.”

“[S]o dumb it’s amazing we even have to have the conversation.”

“It was not necessary.”

“You’re inflaming everyone right here right now with those words!”

“Trump’s people said, ‘We’ll be writing the speech that the President’s Audio-Animatronic figure will be saying.'”

Excuses, excuses.

Not really a “kill all the lawyers” scenario

4 pm ET!

“it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea.”

Currently doing a search for “good international trade lawyers”

Ransomware attack spreads through Europe

John Sexton Jun 27, 2017 1:01 PM

“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide.”

At least their address rarely changes

It just keeps on happening

“Trump is good for business right now.”

Start spreading the news…

“Now it’s time for the next step.”

A “cryptic” warning to Bashar al-Assad?

Jazz Shaw Jun 27, 2017 8:01 AM

The three strikes rule may be in effect

CNN reporters resign over retracted story

John Sexton Jun 26, 2017 9:21 PM

“The individuals all stated that they accepted responsibility and wanted to resign.”

Federalism’s greatest champion is now …

Ed Morrissey Jun 26, 2017 8:41 PM

“In the end, we’re a democracy.”

“Almost all controversial speech harms people, upsets or offends them…”

Obama: Back home again in Indonesia

Andrew Malcolm Jun 26, 2017 7:21 PM

The call to prayer and eating dog.

Testing the waters.

“primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated.”

“If I were a Seattle lawmaker, I would be thinking hard about the $15 an hour phase-in.”

Days of future past

“Not only are taxpayers footing the bill, but people are dying unnecessarily because of this.”

Israel settles who can stand where at the Western Wall

Andrew Malcolm Jun 26, 2017 3:21 PM

Women to the right, men to the left.

Look on the bright side. There’s less snow in the summer

Big win … but for how long?

“Several Russian cities have unveiled monuments to Stalin in recent months.”

Massive disappointment