Sunday, July 25, 2010

“Gee Whilikers”

Last week, I wrote about machinations within the Tea Party and President Obama signing the new regulatory reform bill into law. The White House managed to kick those two “positives for the Democrats” from Page 1, substituting their self-inflicted wounds in the Shirley Sherrod matter. (See more on that below.)

However, earlier last week Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) did manage to display some truly feckless behavior, which I hope is remembered by the nation, involving both the TP and reg reform,

Appearing on CNN, with reporter Candy Crowley, McConnell was asked what he thought of the Tea Party internal warfare and its political significance. This after Tea Party elements began publicly fighting with one another, with each was trying to ban the other from Party activities.

Now, you have to realize that the Tea Party—besides its many negative manifestations—is being counted on by McConnell and other Republican elders as a real GOP force and asset.

To Mitch and the boys, Tea Party members and their friends represent potential “boots on the ground” in politically fertile states and congressional districts as the fall congressional election campaigns kick off in September.

Tea Party members generally are more conservative than most Republicans but they display a frenzied zeal (almost too much) which seems lacking in the County Club R’s. But—and this is major—they also are kind of whacky and unpredictable, like nitroglycerin which might explode any minute taking out whomever is close.

Mitch’s hope and prayer seems to be that the TP and friends will prosper, grow and focus their anger on the Obama Administration, big government, and excessive federal spending—ignoring the GOP’s Bush history in those—and help but never formally associate themselves with the Republican Party, its activists, and national agenda.

So when Crowley asked Leader McConnell about the TP and the internecine warfare which had broken out before the Shirley Sherrod incident, rather than address the subject or get close to the query, he gave an answer which sounded something like (paraphrasing), “Gee Whilikers, I don’t have time to worry about things like that which aren’t in my official Senate world. No Siree.” (Mitch’s nose repeatedly grew about four inches after that and he started to turn to stone, but the cameras didn’t pick it up.)

Regs, You Mean they Issue Regs?

McConnell did get more specific and resorted to grade school logic when Crowley asked about the new regulatory reform bill, which most Republicans opposed, as they consistently defended the financial services miscreants who brought on the debacle.

"It's going to require the issuance of 370 new regulations," he told Crowley. (He didn’t add the “Gee Whilikers” stuff.)

Yes, Mitchell that’s how new laws always are implemented and that’s how the federal government fixes situations that were broken, as most observers recognize was the case with the Bush Administration’s “See no evil” approach to federal financial regulations.

What did you think would happen, Mr. Minority Leader?

In looking back, I never did see a practical GOP substitute for the Dodd (D-Conn)-Frank (D-Mass) bill which became law. The Republicans spent a lot of time shilling for Wall Street and the big bank guys but could never devise a way to deal with the 2008 meltdown aftermath, except to say, “Oh please don’t hurt those big financial institutions.”

“The Rich Get Richer”

Our “Federal Comp Cop,” Ken Feinberg, revealed that 17 financial firms, which had received federal financial assistance through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), paid their senior officials more than $1.5 Billion were misguided in doing so and asked them not to do it, again, the next time there is a financial meltdown.

They agreed, voluntarily, not to do so the next time.“Class, class, can you say ‘flaccid?’ ”

Shirley Sherrod

The story of Shirley Sherrod is now well known. This Agriculture Department veteran was sacked by the Obama Administration shortly after a doctored video tape of her--speaking to an NAACP group--emerged on Fox News. The tape, which was edited and didn’t included her complete comments, which would have wiped out any suggestions that she was racist or anti-white, then was used by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to call on Mrs. Sherrod to resign.

Barely a day later, the real story came out forcing Vilsack, the White House, and the President, himself, to apologize for their misdirected haste and offer her a new job. Oh yes, and “Mr. Irrelevant,” Jesse Jackson, was in the middle somewhere calling for something.

If I was Mrs. Sherrod, I’d vent first—loudly--at the Fox political operatives, who knew exactly what they were doing, when they went public with a distorting portion of her remarks, hoping to make her look like a racist and throw dirt on the NAACP which just had called for the Tea Party leadership to clean up its act.

After making clear her view of the conservatives behind this setup, I—politely—would tell the Obama Administration to stick its job where the sun doesn’t shine, because it reacted so cowardly to this challenge and for not even reviewing the entire tape of her speech.

In my mind, the Administration’s handling of Mrs. Sherrod’s case raises fresh questions about the quality of the White House team and how well they analyze situations and deliver messages. (Don’t tell that to North Korea or Iran.)

I am sure that Mrs. Sherrod’s “15 minutes of fame”—if she so chooses--will give her a bully pulpit and plenty of income to justify turning down the nice man’s job offer, all the while asking. “Mr. O, where were you and your peeps, two days previously, when I really needed you?”

Mrs. Sherrod will enjoy guesting on Oprah and Letterman, and the inevitable book contract or consulting on a movie of her life.

She likely could contribute more to the racial dialogue and understanding in this country by hitting the talk circuit and discussing with her audiences what really happened between her, the white farm family and related matters.

I hope she resists the big GS level job, which invariably will hide her in a non-descript federal office.

BTW, see Willie Nelson’s paean to Mrs. Sherrod, below. (Yes, that Willie Nelson!)

The Russian Spies

“During a recent meeting, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin provided encouragement and sang patriotic songs with 10 agents who were expelled from the United States this month after they were accused of spying, state media reported.”

That was the lead from a weekend story about the Russian spy network uncovered in the US, which we so compliently wrapped up for the Russian to reduce their international embarrassment.

Enough said (for now) about sleazeball Putin!

Congratulations… my good friend Nate Gatten, who came to Fannie Mae in 1999, to toil with me in Government Relations, left the company and went onto to good fortune working for JP Morgan Chase. He has been rewarded for his positive contributions in Jamie Dimond's operation and posted to London, where he will represent the company on financial services and regulatory matters in the EU and Asia. Nate, Annette and their delightful family will depart for England at the end of the year.

My favorite Gatten story (and there are many) involves Emma Gatten, the eldest of four sibs and only daughter. Emma, who is beautiful with red hair, now is about 11. Several years ago, she came to my house and she looked so precious, I said to her, “Emma, will you marry me? I’ll make you a queen.” The skeptical five year old looked at me with steely eyes and asked, “Are you a King?”

No fool she!

Maloni, 7-26-2010

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