Michael Lewis on Obama on Wall Street

From Politico’s Ben White:

Michael Lewis at a PEN@Bloomberg event: “It’s a very odd Presidency. It’s odd that the stock market has doubled and [Obama is] regarded as a socialist. It’s odd that given what [Obama] could have done to big Wall Street interests, and what he actually did, that he’s as reviled on Wall Street. … Obama has been in some ways their best friend – he could have really thrown the institutions to the wolves and he didn’t do it. And it cost him a lot of good will to the left.’

‘I was surprised how calm and moderate President Obama was [about the financial crisis]. And it was one of the first things we talked about … It didn’t end up in the piece, but [President Obama] basically said, as much as one would like some Old Testament vengeance, it’s not very useful in public policy. He wasn’t angry. He didn’t have an anger about the whole thing. He was just trying to figure out the best solution to how to handle this whole mess.’

I had assumed that after the Obama administration shepherded a 49 state robosigning settlement that cost the banks as close to nothing as realistically imaginable, the Wall Street cash would have gone rushing into his campaign coffers. The crimes and misdeeds connected to fraudulent mortgage origination, fraudulent securities sales, fraudulent foreclosure, forgery, perjury, and everything associated with robosigning could have, in a just world, put every one of these banks out of business. But Obama saved them from facing real consequences for their action, just as he pivoted Congressionally funded homeowner aid programs to function to “foam the runway” for banks to prevent them from going bust.

Given that Wall Street’s gambling and excesses and illegality could have (and likely should have) derailed his presidency before it even started, it’s shocking that President Obama was incapable of being angry about it. Anger may not be the best vehicle for crafting and maintaining public policy, but anger is what should compel public policy responses in situations like these. No, I can’t help but conclude that the President wasn’t angry because (as he’s said in the past) he doesn’t believe Wall Street did anything wrong. Thus he has been their friend and protector at a time when we needed a President to rail against their gambling and hold them to account for the damage they inflicted on our country.

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