While in Strasbourg, President Barack Obama told an audience in a townhall meeting that America needs to change its attitude toward Europe. He said America was wrong for not celebrating Europe’s “dynamic union” and not seeking “to partner” with them to better address the “common challenges” that face our nations. He even went so far as to say past American policy was misguided because it had “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,” an obvious rebuke of former President Bush. The president made these highly critical comments of his own country on foreign soil in an effort to “rebuild” the transatlantic relationship between the United States and Europe by offering an olive branch.
The president’s comments were greeted with cheers. They were described as electrifying and inspiring. And they are the most classic case of projection exhibited by an American president to date.
Just a few days ago in a meeting with American CEOs of American banks, President Obama’s tone and attitude were rife with the arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision he had just criticized in Europe. A participant in the meeting told Politico that when the CEOs tried to explain that the nature, complexities, and competition of the finance and banking industries required that they continue retention bonuses for their employees, the president became impatient. He interrupted them and said, “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that. My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
The imagery behind Obama’s threat couldn’t be more obvious: comply with my demands or I will make sure you are harassed, intimidated, and run out of town on a rail. He made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Don Corleone couldn’t have said it better.
We can not forget, however, that it was Barack Obama himself along with his fellow Democrats who agitated this mob-like frenzy about the banks, the CEOs, and the bonuses. It was Obama who said the bonuses were an “outrage” and a “violation of our fundamental values.” Democrat Barney Frank hauled AIG’s CEO in front of the House Financial Services Committee and interrogated him, demanding to know why he approved the hundreds of millions of dollars of bonuses. Conveniently, Congressman Frank failed to mention that the approval was inside the very stimulus bill Obama championed and the Democrats overwhelmingly voted for.
This wasn’t the first time Obama bared his political teeth. Back in January he responded to the House Republicans’ concerns about not having enough tax cuts in the stimulus package with an arrogant and dismissive “I won.” Karl Rove reported in a recent Wall Street Journal column that Obama told fellow Democrat Rep. Peter De Fazio that he needed to watch his political backside after he voted against the president’s stimulus package: “Don’t think I’m not keeping score, brother,” he warned him.
Obama’s most recent pitchfork threat, however, was not just for his private audience of CEOs. He had a much wider audience in mind: the Democrats in Congress and the American people.
While the president continues to inflame the outrage surrounding the executives’ bonuses by threatening bank CEOs with angry mobs wielding pitchforks, he’s quietly working behind the scenes to help these same CEOs avoid the limits Democrats in Congress are trying to place on the salaries of the executives that receive bailout funds. In fact, the president himself has called for these limits. That means we can add another descriptor to Obama’s list: duplicitous. The Washington Post gives us the details:
The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.
Administration officials have concluded that this approach is vital for persuading firms to participate in programs funded by the $700 billion financial rescue package.
The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.
It seems the president is trying to play both sides of this issue. On the one hand, he wants to continue to stoke the populist outrage set ablaze by the lavish bonuses; on the other hand, he is trying to help the CEOs keep those same lavish bonuses.
This epitomizes arrogance, dismissiveness, derision, and duplicity toward the American taxpayers and his own party. The president was elected with the grand expectation that he would transform the way Washington does business, but his new scheme of circumventing Congress is nothing more than the old policies of the Chicago political machine. If President Obama keeps it up, he may find the pitchforks with which he threatened the CEOs pointing at him.