Obama's Firebreathing Radio Address: Is He Getting Serious About Populism?

Two weekend speeches heat up anti-banker rhetoric, but some pundits are skeptical that reform is on the way

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Two pulpit-pounding, anti-banker speeches from President Obama have political analysts anticipating that 2010 will see a surge in populism. But this is hardly the first time. In September, after the president scolded "reckless" Wall Street behavior, pundits urged aggressive steps while bankers shrugged. In December the cycle was repeated, with Obama slamming "fat cat" bankers, only to waffle politely when he met with them in private.

Will this time be any different? Obama once again isn't skimping on the tough language, thrashing bankers for resisting his proposed bank tax. (Read up on the pros-and-cons of the plan here.)

The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It's a sight to see.

  • Language, at Least, Is Heating Up  Michael D. Shear of the Washington Post is struck by the intensity of the attacks, but notes skepticism about the consequences. "The president's increasingly tough rhetoric makes clear that he's not afraid to take on one of the wealthiest and most powerful industries -- at least verbally. But the Obama administration has been measured in the actions it has taken."
  • Get Ready for a 'Populist' 2010  Ben Smith at Politico quotes press secretary Robert Gibbs who forecasts that Obama's tone is "what you'll hear him talk a lot about." Gibbs outlines the battle lines the White House would like to stake out: "People are going to have to decide whether the people they have in Washington are on the side of protecting the big banks, whether they're on the side of protecting the big oil companies, whether they're on the side of protecting insurance companies, or whether they're on the people's side."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.