Defending President’s Housing Proposal, Gibbs Assails CNBC Personality

Feb 20, 2009 3:03pm

The White House lashed back today at CNBC’S Rick Santelli, a CNBC personality who assailed President Obama’s housing rescue plan Thursday on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

"I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives,"  said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs during a press briefing. "But the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgage, stay in their job, pay their bills, to send their kids to school, and to hope that they don’t get sick or that somebody they care for gets sick and sends them into bankruptcy. I think we left a few months ago the — the adage that, if it was good for a derivatives trader, that it was good for Main Street.  I think the verdict is in on that."

"Mr Santelli doesn’t know what he’s. talking about," Gibbs said a little later. He was responding to a question about public anger at the fact that some people who acted irresponsibly may benefit from the president’s plan, a question which mentioned "that cable rant on the floor of the exchange."

"Mr. Santelli has argued — I think quite wrongly — that this plan won’t help everyone," Gibbs said. "This plan will help, by the money that’s invested in Freddie and Fannie, will drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans."

Concluded Gibbs, "now, every day when I come out here, I spend a little time reading, studying on the issues, asking people who are smarter than I am questions about those issues. I would encourage him to read the president’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows.  I’d be more than happy to have him come here and read it."

"I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee," Gibbs wryly added, in remarks he seemed to have prepared. "Decaf."

"Let me do this, too," Gibbs said. "This is a copy of the president’s home affordability plan.  It’s available on the White House Web site, and I would encourage him, download it, hit print, and begin to read it."

Santelli, who has been a member of both the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, lashed out at the Obama administration yesterday for "promoting bad behavior."

"We certainly don’t want to put stimulus forth and give people a whopping $8 or $10 in their check and think they ought to save it," effused Santelli on CNBC from the floor of the Exchange. "And in terms of modifications, I tell you what, I have an idea. The new administration is big on computers and technology – how about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a Web site to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water.”

There were some cheers from those surrounding Santelli on the floor.

“This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand."

There were boos.

"President Obama are you listening?” Santelli asked.

Santelli said, “We’re thinking about having a Chicago tea party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing it! We’re going to be dumping in some derivative securities, what do you think about that?"

Asked about the general benefit of cable news discussions on the economy, Gibbs said "people are entitled to their own opinion, not just their own facts."

Gibbs said "I don’t think anybody can sit in front of some of the TV and listen for an hour and not hear somebody that’s making a case that just — I’ve got to assume they knowing — they know just isn’t true."

He added that if "I hadn’t worked on the campaign, but simply watched the cable news score-keeping of the campaign, we lost virtually every day of the race…If I would have just watched cable TV, I long would have crawled into a hole and given up this whole prospect of changing the country."

– jpt

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