Clem’s Chronicles: Obama & the Bankers/Health Care/Tiger Woods/Counterfeit Xmas

By Clem Lane

Dec 14, 2009 9:29pm

Happy Monday folks. Here's some of what we're working on……

OBAMA/BANKERS MEETING-The President sat down with many of the nation’s leading banking executives today at the White House. His message was simple: you need to loan more money to homeowners and small businesses. There’s plenty of evidence that the banks have been dragging their feet on these issues. Jake Tapper, filing for WORLD NEWS, reports that “the government says bank loans to consumers and businesses are down nearly $600 billion from last year”, not exactly what you expect from an industry brought back from the ashes. President Obama noted “America’s banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry and now that they’re back on their feet we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.” The industry response? Tapper: “While one bank pledged to increase lending to small and medium-sized businesses by $5 billion next year, other CEO’s we spoke to tried to justify their recent behavior.” Like US Bancorp CEO Richard Davis, who said “You don’t want us to make loans to people who are unqualified.” Unfortunately, in their caution the banking industry may be throwing the baby out with the bath water-Tapper points out that “even those with good credit and thriving businesses…cannot get loans.” And on the subject of executive compensation, the President had a blunt baseball analogy for the assembled-Tapper notes the President said: “you guys are like overpaid pitchers on the baseball team doing poorly. When the team’s doing well, no one seems to care. But you guys didn’t win any World Series this year.”

TARP/CITIGROUP, WELLS FARGO JOINING THE REPAYMENT TEAM-Citigroup and Wells Fargo announced repayment of government monies, the last major banks to exit the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which the government put in place at the height of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. Citigroup will repay $20 billion, while Wells Fargo will repay the $25 billion it received. Both banks announced significant capital raises in order to repay the money, and the government will also sell the one-third stake it holds in Citigroup. (AP)

SENATE/HEALTH CARE REFORM-If the Senate’s health-care reform compromise were a patient, it might be on life support this evening. Last week’s optimism that a deal could get done on health-care has all but evaporated now. Senator Harry Reid today blamed Republicans, but as Jon Karl noted on WORLD NEWS, “Reid’s real problem is in his own party.” And his own party’s “allies”.  Take Connecticut independent Senator Joe Lieberman. Despite saying last week as the compromise unfolded that he was “encouraged” by developments , it appears Senator Lieberman does not support an expansion of Medicare to those as young as 55. So? He’s only one vote you might say.But Karl reminds that “with no Republican support, every Democrat can be a king. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) needs every single one of them to defeat a Republican filibuster. And it’s not just Lieberman-Sen. Ben Nelson(D-NE) has issues. Karl notes “(He) also doesn’t like expanding Medicare and says he can’t vote for the bill unless it includes tighter restrictions on abortion funding.” And if your solution to this dilemma is to placate Lieberman, Nelson and other Democrats with reservations, Karl points out that “liberal Democrats may bolt who have insisted on a more ambitious bill.” Still, Senate Democratic leaders emerging from a caucus meeting earlier this evening seemed intent on bringing Lieberman into the fold, Zach Wolf notes, “whatever it takes…and that is likely to include dropping the public option and a newly proposed program to allow people 55-64 to buy into Medicare without government subsidy.” But what about those liberal Democrats? Senator Chris Dodd put it this way-“It is easier to envision the legislation you want than to pass legislation you need.” The White House though seems to be taking no chances with a potential impasse-in his close, Karl tells us “all 60 Senate Democrats have been asked to go to the White House tomorrow where you can expect they will hear a forceful message directly from the president that it is time to cut a deal.” What kind of deal that will placate the many divisions in the Senate and still seem palatable to House Democrats is anyone’s guess.

COUNTERFEIT CHRISTMAS-A reminder today from federal law enforcement authorities that just because a bag says Gucci doesn’t mean it really was made by Gucci. Cue Operation Holiday Hoax, a joint nationwide operation by several government agencies to fight back against counterfeiters. Pierre Thomas, filing for WORLD NEWS, explains: “In one week alone, in series of raids across the country, federal agents seized millions of dollars in counterfeit goods-knock offs of everything from Burberry, Gucci, Christian Dior to Nike.” Not a fashion fan? Neither apparently are some counterfeiters. Thomas: “They found electronics-blackberries, dvds, cds, even pill factories to make counterfeit medicine.” No area of consumer goods seems untouched, and the “where” is almost as varied as the “what”. Thomas: “The phony goods are sold on street corners, at small boutique shops and on-line.” So if you’ve found “the deal of the century” or a third-party outlet stocking hot xmas items you thought unavailable, Pierre Thomas wants you to know that “this holiday season, it’s buyers beware.”

TIGER WOODS’ ENDORSEMENTS/POPULARITY WANE:  An ABC News-Washington Post poll found that Woods’ popularity has plummeted in response to his infidelity scandal.  Gary Langer reports: “Eighty-five percent of Americans expressed a favorable opinion of Woods in a Gallup poll in 2005. That fell to 60 percent in a CNN poll as the scandal erupted earlier this month. Now it’s down to 42 percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll completed last night; about as many people, 43 percent, now see him unfavorably.”  But, Langer says, “As dramatic as Woods’ fall has been, it could be worse: Fifty-four percent say companies should continue to use him to promote their products. But fewer, one-third, feel that way strongly, and some companies clearly are moving in the other direction; management consultant Accenture said yesterday it was ending its sponsorship of Woods, the first firm to do so in the aftermath of allegations that he engaged in multiple marital infidelities.”  Today Tag Heuer became the latest company to release a statement on Woods; it said it was assessing its relationship with Woods, who has endorsed the Swiss watches for years.  In addition to the endorsements, Woods’ “indefinite break” from golf will have an impact on the game itself.  Woods not playing “is a big problem for golf and those around it,” John Berman tells us.  “When Woods was out with an injury last year, TV ratings dropped 50 percent….over the last 13 years, largely thanks to the attention and sponsors Woods has brought to the game, the total prize money on the PGA tour has quadrupled.  For years, golfers have told us without Woods, they’d all suffer….Woods life is no game.  But his indefinite break from playing could have definite consequences for many.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

BERLUSCONI ATTACK CREATES DEBATE:  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is spending a second night in the hospital after being attacked by a man in Milan Sunday.  Berlusconi was hit in the face with a statue and suffered a broken nose, two broken teeth and a split lip.  As the controversial Italian leader recovers, a polarizing debate has emerged on whether Massimo Tartaglia, the man who hit Berlusconi with a statue, was justified in his attack.  Here’s Nick Watt: “[Berlusconi’s] gut reaction last night:  to face down his attacker.  He always fights back, which fuels the hatred.  Back in the summer Berlusconi brushed off allegations he paid women to attend his parties and share his bed…then the supreme court overturned a law Berlusconi himself had enacted that gave him immunity from prosecution.  He’s facing charges of bribery and fraud.  Last weekend tens of thousands marched demanding his resignation.  Ironically, this attack might shore up his waning popularity.”  Pictures of the bloodied prime minister has generated some sympathy, and tonight Italy's ANSA news agency reported that Tartaglia had written a letter to Berlusconi apologizing for his "superficial, cowardly and uncontrolled" act. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

SEARCH FOR MT. HOOD HIKERS:  Rescuers are in a race against time in the search for two missing hikers on Mt. Hood.  The two hikers — Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland — along with Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., started their climb early Friday.  They were due back that afternoon but failed to return.  Gullberg’s body was found Saturday.  Avalanche threats have prohibited ground search efforts, and a major storm is forecast to hit the area tonight, which will further hamper the search. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry) 

IRAN/US HIKERS-Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Monday a court will try three American hikers who wandered across the border from Iraq last July. "They will be tried by Iran's judiciary system and verdicts will be issued," Mottaki told a news conference. He said the three were still being interrogated. Mottaki did not say when the trial would begin. Secretary of State Clinton, speaking to reporters after meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister, said the charges were unfounded and she called for their release. (Kirit Radia/Dimitrije Stejic)
ANOTHER HOUSE DEMOCRAT ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT-Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., today became the fourth Democratic House incumbent in the past few weeks to announce his retirement. This was a major factor in the Democratic takeover of Congress in 1994, and the Republican sweep of 2006. We’re not at those levels yet, but we’re moving in that direction. (Rick Klein)

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