I linked to this Wall Street Journal story below, but it has some great details that are worth singling out. Part of the story's appeal is the details of what went on over the weekend--the argument Treasury officials presented to bank executives and the pushback the bank executives gave them:
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his colleagues worked the phones to try to line up support on Wall Street for the plan announced Monday. They told executives they don't favor using the tax code to retroactively penalize specific individuals who had received bonuses, according to people familiar with the calls. They asked officials to sign on "in pencil, not ink," and to "validate" or "express support" for the plan, these people say.
Some bankers say they turned the conversations into complaints about the antibonus crusade consuming Capitol Hill. Some have begun "slow-walking" the information previously sought by Treasury for stress-testing financial institutions, three bankers say, and considered seeking capital from hedge funds and private-equity funds so they could return federal bailout money, thereby escaping federal restrictions.
And part of what makes the story interesting is that it documents what appears to be a divide in the White House between administration officials who are quite comfortable criticizing Wall Street (David Axelrod) and those who aren't (Obama himself):
Mr. Obama and his aides regularly and publicly criticized financial firms for buying private planes and redecorating offices and hosting lavish parties. The talk was fueled in part by the results of surveys by New York pollster Joel Benensen, commissioned by the Democratic Party, which Mr. Axelrod regularly reviews. The polls consistently showed that the public blames big financial firms for the current mess, and is hesitant to offer aid.
[...]When chief speechwriter Jon Favreau began working on the president's late-February joint address to Congress, he included draft language criticizing Wall Street for helping trigger the economic downturn and stating that "Americans are justifiably angry" at the banks -- sentiments the president had expressed many times before.
Yet when Messrs. Favreau and Axelrod presented the draft in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama surprised them by saying he wanted to interject some balance to help encourage the financial industry to lend again, one official said.
I'd say Obama comes out of this looking reasonably statesmanlike ("we cannot afford to govern out of anger" and so on) while Axelrod ends up looking like his populism is exquisitely poll-tested.
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