Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Obama -- Insider Knowledge

For the folks that follow me on Twitter, you know that I have recently found the podcasts of Frontline on PBS. Pay dirt. Bingo! OMG! Pick your exclamation. The first episode of Money, Power and Wall Street blew me away. I've already written a different blog about it because of its Georgia connection. I finished listening to episode two just before lunch today. Follow me back in time...

It's the 2008 Presidential campaign between Obama and McCain. The financial world is coming unglued right in the middle of it. Wall Street is imploding, Hank Paulson wants a 700-billion-dollar blank check from Congress and he wants it done over the weekend, before Wall Street opens on Monday morning. The world is literally falling apart and John McCain decides to "suspend" his Presidential campaign, fly back to Washington and help fix the mess.

On September 25th, President Bush calls a meeting and invited Senator McCain, Senator Obama and a bunch of others -- the leadership of Congress. This is how Frontline reports the meeting:

"Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: We’re in a serious economic crisis in the country if we don’t pass a piece of legislation.

PETER BAKER, _The New York Times_: They sit around the Cabinet Room table, and President Bush says, “If we don’t get the money flowing, if we don’t get the credit flowing, this sucker could go down,” meaning the economy as a whole. And then he opens it up.

RON SUSKIND, Author, Confidence Men: McCain walks into the meeting with, like, a cue card with a couple things scribbled on it. Obama doesn’t even wait for McCain to start. He just moves right in.

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, Obama Economic Adviser, 2008: Senator Obama has been talking to Paulson, has been talking to Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker and Larry Summers, and you know, a host of other economic advisers.

DAVID WESSEL, The Wall Street Journal: Obama is prepared and he talks about what needs to happen, and “We’ll pull together,” and he’s been— he doesn’t want to take over in a country which is in depression, so he’s extremely supportive of this whole emergency bailout thing.

Rep. NANCY PELOSI: Senator Obama said, “Well, I’d really like to hear from Senator McCain because he’s the person who called for this meeting.”

RON SUSKIND: McCain is fumbling with his cue cards. He doesn’t even barely get started. Obama kind of patronizes him, saying, “I think Senator McCain has something to say.” McCain just melts on the spot.

MATT LATIMER: Obama took charge, had authority. John McCain had no plan, no strategy. I don’t think he understood what was happening, or didn’t have a plan for what he wanted to accomplish.

JONATHAN ALTER: President Bush whispered to Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting next to him, when McCain was talking, he said, “You guys are going to miss me.” And she kind of laughed.

PETER BAKER: The meeting ends up breaking into— into a cacophony of shouting and— and screaming back and forth. And Bush stands up and says, “Well, I’ve clearly lost control of this meeting,” and he walks out.

JONATHAN ALTER: And another Republican at the table joked to the person sitting next to him, “After this, even we’re going to vote for Obama.” That was the level of Obama’s dominance in this meeting."

(Emphasis added)

Pause and reflect on that a moment. Remember the venom and bile of the times. “After this, even we’re going to vote for Obama.” The stakes could not have been higher. It was a monumental moment -- probably the biggest once since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Obama -- still a junior Senator -- steps up. McCain -- a senior Senator -- fades.

And after the election, the Republicans make it their #1 goal to unseat President Obama, obstructing any and all efforts to legislate, knowing full well that we just dodged the Second Great Depression by a whisker. How's that for soulless, political calculation?

My readers recognize that Frontline has gone out and talked to a Who's Who of people that had a front-row seat to this moment in history. As I said, I'm just on episode two (of four) but this thing is awesome. Stop reading me and go watch. They're an hour long each so set aside some time. The transcript is here. The series home page is here. And here's the link to the podcast at the Apple Store (it's free) in case you want to add Frontline to your podcast list.

I can't get the player to embed so off you go to Frontline: Money, Power and Wall Street.

Don Brown
September 11, 2012

P.S. There will be a "moral to the story" relating all this to air traffic control at some future date. Pay attention.

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