Main Street Avenue: Goldman hits Washington, Obama hits Iowa and Policy Aligns with Politics

Apr 27, 2010 7:38am

By Rick Klein

At what point do the thank-you notes get handed out?

Every good story needs a villain, and Goldman Sachs officials — complete with their e-mail accounts and their suits and now their requisite congressional testimony — will serve the part well. And as Wall Street comes to Washington, President Obama gets out of Washington to get to Main Street (did you forget about that particular “tour?”).

The only way the visuals could fall into place more cleanly is if they land in Iowa. (Check.)

Add that to a GOP-filibuster of financial regulatory reform — sorry, Wall Street reform — and even a loss on the Senate floor isn’t a bad way to start a campaign.

For the president, getting outside of Washington helps him campaign against Washington — never mind who’s been in control for a year and a half now.

The politics are personal, and — for a change this year — the policy is working in the same direction. Main Street has rarely looked so tempting an avenue.

“For all the ways that Mr. Obama is working to brighten the outlook for Democrats in the midterm elections, perhaps none is more important than raising his own standing and repairing a frayed connection with voters who have grown critical of his presidency,” The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny writes.

“So on Tuesday, Mr. Obama is returning to the place his candidacy sprang to life, here in Iowa, for the start of a two-day trip to the Midwest. He is not planning to appear with Democratic candidates as he moves from city to city on the latest leg of his Main Street economic tour, but rather to talk — and listen — to factory workers, farmers and citizens he meets along the way.”

“Since Democrats control the levers of power in Washington, the electorate’s bleak opinion of government is a problem for the party. Mr. Obama is trying to recapture his brand as he seeks to define himself again as a reformer, hoping to counter the anti-government, anti-incumbent sentiment that has poisoned the atmosphere for Democrats,” Zeleny writes.

ABC’s Karen Travers and Sunlen Miller: “The two-day trip promises to be a ‘roll up your shirtsleeves and connect with the people’ type of affair for President Obama that will counter the focus on Wall Street in Washington, where Capitol Hill will be consumed by the testimony of several high-level officials from Goldman Sachs. Obama is scheduled to meet with workers at two clean energy facilities, tour a local family-owned farm, and take questions at a town-hall meeting.

The president will go into ‘the heart of rural America,’ a White House official says, talking to small business owners, workers, farmers, and those Americans who are facing the challenges of economic recovery.” As for the Main Street tour — which is apparently very liberal about on-and-off privileges… ”

The visits are part of what Obama calls a White House to Main Street tour, and follow similar outings in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia to promote the $862 billion economic stimulus program and the health-care overhaul designed to cover millions of uninsured Americans and slow rising health costs,” Bloomberg’s Roger Runningen reports.   It matters where these Main Streets run through: “White House officials say his visits to Illinois, Iowa and Missouri aren’t about politics. But in a midterm election year when resurgent conservatives have imperiled key Democratic posts, politics will be following him,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman reports.

Getting tough — and personal: “Once chastised for not being tough enough, President Barack Obama has lately been getting personal with his political adversaries — singling them out for scorn in speeches, interviews, asides and even in his weekly radio address,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Carol E. Lee report. “Rather than just going after big groups of bad guys — insurance companies, lobbyists, the media — Obama has adopted a strategy that gives a face to the enemy.”

Rush Limbaugh, not a fan of the efforts to restart the campaign engines: “This is the regime at its racist best,” he said, per Politics Daily’s Lynn Sweet. “He is asking young people, African-Americans, Latino and women to reconnect, to fight who? Who is this fight against?”

Back in town: “Senate Democrats got exactly what they wanted Monday night: a concrete way to try to tar Republicans as beholden to Wall Street schemers who would put the country in danger of another financial industry collapse,” Roll Call’s Emily Pierce and Jessica Brady report.  “What was Senate Majority Leader Reid doing holding a vote prematurely? The answer is: Dems believe that forcing Republicans into a perceived stand with fat cat bankers is playing well with not only the Dem base but with independent voters,” Time’s Jay Newton-Small reports.

“Majority leader Harry Reid planned to file another motion last night that could force votes today and tomorrow, allowing Democrats to continue pounding their theme that Republicans are in league with Wall Street bank executives,”

The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser reports. “Given the public support for tougher Wall Street rules, the unanimity that Republicans demonstrated Monday may not endure,” The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis and Shailagh Murray report.

“Democrats say they believe about half a dozen GOP lawmakers are open to switching their votes. They include Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa).” Why there will be slippage: “Two-thirds of Americans support stricter federal regulation of banks and other financial institutions, and by a double-digit margin the public trusts President Obama more than the Republicans in Congress to handle financial reform,” ABC’s Gary Langer reports in his write-up of the new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

“The public supports reform overall by 65-31 percent, a broad margin that’s been steady since midwinter, and trusts Obama more than the Republicans to handle financial reform by 52-35 percent.” And yet: “Even as he touts his efforts to put more Americans to work, President Barack Obama faces a public increasingly skeptical of his ability to bring jobs back to Main Street,” the AP’s Julie Pace reports.

“During stops in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, Obama will try to convince voters that his economic policies are working, despite an unemployment rate that’s expected to remain at painfully high levels for months if not years.” Not Main Street, quite — but you can find M&Ms and Harleys there …. “Far afield from Wall Street, the intense debate over the overhaul of financial regulations by Congress is attracting some unlikely but powerful players. More than 130 companies from the manufacturing, retail and service sectors have retained high-powered lobbyists to weigh in on, and often oppose, the regulatory system being debated this week in Washington,” The New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Ron Nixon report.

The night before the vote? “Sunday night, [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] cashed in at an intimate dinner in New York organized by his campaign finance team and sponsored by Roger Altman, a former deputy Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, who is now chairman of Evercore Partners, which claims that it’s the ‘most active investment banking boutique in the world,’ ” Politico’s Manu Raju and John Bresnahan report. As for the theater of the day … Lloyd Blankfein and company appear before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The meat: “Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachshelped create a housing bubble by selling securities backed by risky subprime mortgage loans and then profited off that bubble’s bursting by secretly betting against the market, a Senate investigation has found,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports.

“A day before a high-profile hearing featuring numerous Goldman Sachs officials, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a flurry of excerpts from internal bank documents that the panel says show that the embattled firm misled the American public about its role in the build-up to the financial crisis in September 2008.”

ABC’s Jonathan Karl, on “Good Morning America” Tuesday: “This showdown with Goldman Sachs could not come at a more politically important time.” “Senate Readies Goldman Assault,” reads The Wall Street Journal headline. “The testimony was poised to highlight the fundamental split between Washington lawmakers-who see Goldman as an archetype of the problems that drove the financial system into crisis — and the Wall Street firm, which says it was merely managing risk and didn’t make big profits from housing’s decline,” John D. McKinnon, Susanne Craig and Fawn Johnson report.

From Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s prepared testimony: “While we strongly disagree with the SEC’s complaint, I also recognize how such a complicated transaction may look to many people … We have to do a better job of striking the balance between what an informed client believes is important to his or her investing goals and what the public believes is overly complex and risky.”

Thinking through the day — David Brooks, in his New York Times column: “The firm can claim to be dumb but decent, like the rest of the establishment, and emphasize the times it lost money. Or it can present itself as smart and sleazy, and emphasize the times it made money at the expense of its clients. Goldman seems to have chosen dumb but decent, which is probably the smart narrative to get back in the establishment’s good graces, even if it is less accurate.” More offense … the DNC isn’t waiting until fall to take it to Republicans, and surely isn’t waiting for 2012 to winnow down frontrunners. A new Web video — “Mitt Romney: Wall Street’s Best Friend” — is being released Tuesday, “indicative of attacks other Republicans can expect if they continue to stand with Wall Street executives over Main Street Americans,” per a Democratic source. (Complete with Gordon Gekko moment, in black and white…) In Florida — as Friday approaches, Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., is taking questions (though not offering answers about what-ifs. As in, if he decides to run for Senate as an independent, will he refund the contributions of Republicans who want their money back? “I think that’s a decision that you have to make if you made a decision to go independent. I haven’t made that decision yet,” Crist told the Miami Herald’s Al Chardy.

Showing up, in the Show-Me State: “Robin Carnahan took a lot of political heat for ducking out on President Obama’s appearance in St. Louis earlier this year. Now she gets a do-over,” David Goldstein reports in the Kansas City Star. “The likely Democratic nominee for the Senate, Carnahan will appear with the president Wednesday when he stops in Macon, Mo.” Immigration law fallout — extending to the ballot: “An Arizona civil rights advocate jumped into the state’s Senate race Monday, pointing to the strict anti-illegal immigration law just signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer as a central theme of his campaign,” Politico’s Josh Kraushaar reports.

“Randy Parraz joins a Democratic primary field that includes just one other candidate, businessman and Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman. And Christina Martinez, a spokeswoman for Parraz, said the new immigration law was a major factor driving his decision to run.” And nationally: “Arizona’s tough new immigration law swiftly reconfigured the national political landscape in an already high-octane election year. It creates peril for Democrats and Republicans on a divisive issue with implications for national security, states rights and race,” the AP’s Liz Sidoti reports. “Both parties are trying to figure out the next step, mindful not to enflame their electoral base or alienate independents over the estimated 12 million people living in the United States illegally. The last immigration debate — in 2007, it exposed divisions within each party — remains fresh in lawmakers’ minds.”

Matthew Dowd, coming to the defense of RNC Chairman Michael Steele (sort of): “In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In politics, it’s conditions, conditions, conditions. And after conditions, the second most important factor is the candidate. And then, in a distant third, the campaign and its tactics.

These are what one of my friends calls ‘the 3 Cs of elections’ and they don’t include the national committees.” Taking back a joke — National Security Adviser Jim Jones, per ABC’s Jake Tapper: “I wish that I had not made this off the cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct.” New video — and new threats — via the “underwear bomber”: “New videos produced by al Qaeda in Yemen show the accused underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and others in his training class firing weapons at a desert camp whose targets included the Jewish star, the British Union Jack and the letters ‘UN,’ ” ABC’s Matthew Cole, Brian Ross and Nasser Atta report. “The videos … broadcast Monday on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, appear to support Abdulmutallab’s statements to the FBI that there are ‘others like me’ who also trained with him in Yemen to carry out attacks against U.S. and western targets.”

The Kicker: “I don’t think we need the former governor who I think is still struggling with his own personal issues to weigh in here at this point and time.” — Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., on ABC’s “Top Line,” asking Eliot Spitzer to butt out of New York politics. “I think other teams would be just fine with a spell like that.

The Cubs, for example.” — President Obama, White Sox fan, riding the Yankees for putting nine years between titles.

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