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“Inside Job”: They Got Away with It. And Obama Let Them.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times is out with a review of “Inside Job,” a documentary by Charles Ferguson of the Wall Street Meltdown of 2008. I’m going to quote from Scott’s review; you can read it all here.

Two years ago at this time, a month before the presidential election, my friends and I were wondering if we’d all lose our homes and end up sleeping in tents in the woods. (I’d head for the Iroquois River a few miles from my house, because the fairgrounds are public land.) People were buying guns and ammo, and I asked, “Will everyone have to have a gun?”

I’ve only fired a shotgun once in my life, and that was plenty. It had more kick than the Indianapolis Colts. I hate guns, but there I was, asking if the chaos to come would mean total lawlessness, a complete breakdown of society.

That did not come to pass. I credit the bank bailout known as TARP passed two years ago this week by Congress under President Bush.

Senator Barack Obama supported it; Senator John McCain “suspended his campaign” for President, then sat on the sidelines because he really had nothing to do with it. It took two tries in Congress before the bill went through.

It was of course the most politically unpalatable piece of legislative garbage any politician has ever swallowed. But we needed it to prevent a rerun of the Great Depression. Other countries also bailed out their banks, some were nationalized, some were sold for pennies on the dollar, and the whole world squeaked through.

Sen. Obama was elected President a month later, and then made the worst mistakes of his life, more disastrous than Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Obama will be entirely to blame for whatever losses Democrats suffer in the upcoming election.

Why? He let the crooks get away with it.

In doing so he followed standard political advice; but never were political advisers more wrong than the same folks – Axelrod, Plouffe, Emanuel – who carried out the most brilliant political campaign in history.

I don’t want to punish the current president; I like him as a man. But gee whiz, how dumb can you get?

The standard political advice for an incoming administration is “turn the page.” Don’t go after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, or you’ll have nothing but political warfare.

I agree with that, even though I hated every minute of Bush-Cheney; holding them accountable under the law would have led immediately to political gridlock.

So what do we have now? Political gridlock.

I agreed, very reluctantly, with Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, even though by rights he should have died in prison.

You simply cannot put an elected President of the United States in prison. You just can’t, no matter how much he may have trampled on the Constitution. An elected President has a democratic mandate no court but the elected Senate can remove. When Democrats didn’t impeach Bush and Cheney in 2007, it was Game Over. (That was Nancy Pelosi’s bad advice. Someone should have told her Bush’s illegal war is not Clinton’s blowjob. But she was scared of the media and more gridlock.)

There’s a big difference between indicting Dumb and Dumber, and indicting people who were never elected to anything but a cushy job at Goldman Sachs.

Obama should have sent U.S. Marshals to Wall Street to round them all up. If he’d done that, Democrats would win 80 more seats in the House next month. He’d be the most popular president ever.

Instead he leaves us with this mess.

Joe Biden can whine all he wants to about “whining liberals,” but I have no sympathy. Obama lost the liberals and the moderates because of his own stupid decisions.

He let Wall Street get away with it, while millions of people have lost their homes, their jobs and their retirement savings.

From A.O. Scott’s review:

As I was watching “Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson’s meticulous and infuriating documentary about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis of 2008, an odd, archaic sentence kept popping into my head. The words come from the second chapter of “The Scarlet Letter” and are spoken in frustration and disgust by an old Puritan woman who watches Hester Prynne, publicly disgraced but without any sign of remorse, making her way from Salem’s prison to a scaffold in its market square. She “has brought shame upon us all …” the anonymous woman remarks. “Is there not law for it?”

“Inside Job,” a sleek, briskly paced film whose title suggests a heist movie, is the story of a crime without punishment, of an outrage that has so far largely escaped legal sanction and societal stigma. The betrayal of public trust and collective values that Mr. Ferguson chronicles was far more brazen and damaging than the adultery in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, which treated Hester more as scapegoat than villain.

The gist of this movie, which begins in a mood of calm reflection and grows angrier and more incredulous as it goes on, is unmistakably punitive. The density of information and the complexity of the subject matter make “Inside Job” feel like a classroom lecture at times, but by the end Mr. Ferguson has summoned the scourging moral force of a pulpit-shaking sermon. That he delivers it with rigor, restraint and good humor makes his case all the more devastating.

Two years ago while I was wondering if I’d lose my house, my car and all my savings, I couldn’t help but remember that “the last time this happened,” (not true; it was 1920), somebody bombed J.P. Morgan’s headquarters at 23 Wall Street, injuring 400 and killing 38.

I don’t want anyone hurt, but why, I wondered, was public rage not directed at Wall Street’s self-described “geniuses” who nearly brought down the entire world financial system?

No arrests, no indictments, no nothing. Just complaints from Wall Street wives that they couldn’t be seen tramping around with bags from Tiffany’s and Bergdorf’s without getting nasty looks. Poor babies!

A.O. Scott in The Times wonders why so little rage has been directed at the Wall Street titans. Yes, there were a few chartered buses to scout out their mansions in Westchester, but nothing came of that. He writes about the movie:

This call to arms makes you wonder why anger of the kind so eloquently expressed in “Inside Job” has been so inchoate.

It’s a good observation, but it’s easy enough to answer; when the Hopey-Changey Democratic President doesn’t complain about Wall Street’s crimes and abuses, much less lead a raid on all their headquarters, what’s an ordinary person to do?

When Obama didn’t say anything, neither did the most prominent members of Congress. I guess they were expecting him to lead or somethin’.

Meanwhile there were Axelrod, Emanuel and Plouffe saying, “Turn the page. Work on your own agenda. Let bygones be bygones, get some watered-down bills passed.”

They squandered the greatest political advantage since the LBJ landslide of 1964.

So I have no sympathy for them. They made the worst imaginable miscalculation, by conflating Bad Elected Officials (Bush, Cheney et al.) with Bad Boys on Wall Street.

After all, Obama got a lot of help from Wall Street; for the first time that I can remember, the Democratic candidate got more donations from financiers than the Republican. Wall Street knows what a winner looks like; did they buy him off?

No, I don’t think so, though there’s no doubt their contributions were part of the calculus. I think Obama appointed Wall Streeters to the Treasury and the Fed because… “that’s where all the experts are.” Politicians always appoint insider-experts, right?

It’s one more example of the horrible advice this President has acted on. He isn’t nearly the “think-outside-the-box” intellectual he was portrayed as.

Meanwhile Lou Dobbs (remember him?) was excoriating Mexican immigrants as scapegoats (and Gay people are always available if that doesn’t work), Rush Limbaugh gave the Republicans their talking points and Fox “News” amplified and repeated them. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell decided to obstruct everything Obama tried to do (which was smart politics, but horrible governance), and the President ended up looking like an emasculated jerk, when he was such a stud candidate.

And there’s poor Joe Biden, telling all the Democrats this is all their fault. It’s halfway comical, but this is my country at stake!

• Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: still in place.
• Guantanamo: still open.
• Iraq War: still dying.
• Afghanistan: worse than ever.
• Jobs: sorry, not hiring.

And we’re all supposed to be thrilled because some time after I’m dead, Americans will finally get a small version of health care as a human right?

It’s your own damn fault, Barack; you blew it.

I guess you missed that lecture in PoliSci 102, which is also conventional wisdom: the pollsters and strategists who helped you get elected don’t know the first thing about running a government.

You’re the one who’s supposed to know – but you don’t.++

Bring back this guy, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker; he's the only one who makes any sense.

5 Responses

  1. Makes me sick…I feel terrible, President Obama is learning on the job…and I fear Hillary was right all along…however, that was what was and not what is… The silver lining is that Obama will have learned much in two years as our President is not a liar and disgusting manipulator like Bush…smart isn´t trying to get away with murder…smart is doing ones best and taking responsiblity when all the choices have been made and some aren´t as good as others…ask any merchant, if a Buyer makes mistakes, the Buyer must take drastic markdowns quickly and learn from the not-so-desireable assortments…. smart managers don´t hold on to bad choices hoping the merchandise will improve with age…onward.

    Adios to the next mayor of Chicago (who proved to be a National Markdown for the biannual CLEARANCE at The White House )! Too bad he didn´t do better but he clearly was way over his head…a head that was screwed down below the waterline at the deep end of the pool.

    President Obama isn´t done. President Obama is dancing as fast as he can…I trust him, trust is important and I don´t trust others codependently…for me he´s realizing that the ¨opposition¨ are street fighters and soon he´ll get out of the ring and clean their clocks on their home turf…afterall, there will soon be nothing to lose but reelection and that won´t be happening.

  2. Josh,. you’re my good friend, but I couldn’t disagree with you more. “Progressive” doesn’t mean “perfect” – it means “progress.” And there has been great progress in the face of what essentially is a deadlocked Senate. It’s all about the filibuster, baby, and there ain’t nothing the President can do about that. So blame the Preisdent all you want, but I suspect you’re projecting. and as one whpo receives projection all the time, I believe I can recognize it. Rather, give thanks for *has* been accomplished, and work to do more. That’s the better approach.


  3. Bob, this is politics, not parish life; Barack Obama is not our “father.” He came into office with a surge of goodwill, but look at him now, about to lose the House and the Senate. I don’t believe this is because of the inordinate skill of Boehner and McConnell, nor even the power of Rupert Murdoch. It’s because this President is inept and listens to the wrong people.

    If the filibuster is the problem, baby, change the filibuster rule. Reform the Senate. Has Obama campaigned on that? No, he hasn’t said a word.

    LBJ would have barbecued some Blue Dogs down at the ranch and invited Ben Nelson as the guest of honor. Nelson would have attended, had a hearty laugh for the cameras and gotten the message.

    This President doesn’t understand power – so he’s losing what he’s got. He’s passive, he’s a wimp. Tea partiers pack heat 100 yards away from him and he doesn’t say a word.

    Leonardo, I have great respect for what you wrote. You’re right, at least we have an honest President now. I hope your prediction is right – but I haven’t seen any fight yet. And Bob, there isn’t going to be any “progress” without some fight.

  4. Josh – I’m dismayed you dismiss the very real accomplishments of this Administration so glibly. There *is* health care reform, and 72,000 more people have access than did a month ago. There *is* real financial reform. We *are* drawing down in Iraq. And TARP, which you give so much credit to Bush for? Totally managed by *this* Administration, and the NYT reports we the taxpaeyers will actually make a profit on it!

    Should the President be scrappier? Absolutely. Has he doen things in 2 years than 20 years ago would have been the work of an entire Presidency? Yes, he has!

    Each of us lives in conservative counties and House districts. It’s likely our votes won’t matter one bit. But staying away, or voting for a scrub candidate, only increases the apparant mandate of our opponents. Every vote *does* count!

    Progressive does not mean perfection.



  5. Bob, I live in a liberal House district, IN-1. Look it up. It’s the most solidly Democratic district in the state.

    My Congressman is Pete Visclosky, who has been trading campaign contributions for earmarks and is/was being investigated by the Ethics Committee for it. I will NOT vote for him. (He voted against TARP, too.) His opponent is a perennial loser; the Republican candidate always is, but this guy’s been at it for a decade, never raises any money, barely campaigns and I wonder why he bothers. I won’t vote for anyone for Congress.

    The Democratic nominee for Senate, Brad Ellsworth, is an anti-abortion Blue Dog Democrat who will be no use whatsoever on any of the progress we support. Indiana might as well have the ex-senator/ex-lobbyist Dan Coats, knowing he’ll vote for everything Mitch McConnell tells him to; anti-Gay, anti-progress, no no no.

    I didn’t give Bush credit for TARP; I said it was passed while he was President. I am glad it has worked so well.

    But if you think one health care bill, watered down and weak, and one financial reform bill, watered down and weak, are 20 years’ worth of progress, you weren’t around in 1964-68, when Lyndon Johnson got a good strong reform every month – and neither of us was around when FDR did the same. One thing about Obama, he’s sure no FDR, though we’re facing many of the same conditions he did. Re-read the post; millions out of work, skyrocketing foreclosures, retirement savings disappeared. Arianna Huffington now has a slogan and a book about this: “Third World America.”

    Obama’s on the defensive about his stimulus package, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into my state; I drive the roads Obama rebuilt. He’s on the defensive against critics who are clueless, talentless morons (Sharron Angle? Rand Paul? Newt Effing Gingrich?), when he ought to be bragging and doubling down. But Obama doesn’t have the rocks.

    I’m reminded of Lincoln’s despair as he went through general after general, looking for someone who could fight. Obama’s an appeaser like McClellan, who was great at training but refused to fight. Once Lincoln found Grant, we finally won the damn war. The North had every advantage but we lost and lost and lost, until Lincoln found Grant and Grant found Sherman and we burned the fucking place down.

    It is totally unacceptable that we now have candidates for the United States Senate who stand for tearing down Social Security. Obama thinks his war’s in Afghanistan, when in fact it’s in Washington, D.C. Secure the goddamn capital!

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