It looks like once again long-time Obama-hate Paul Krugman is really the clueless one as he attacks Obama while twisting what he actually said. He dwells on a few words taken out of context from an interview while totally missing Obama’s actual point. It’s bad enough we constantly have to put up with conservatives doing this. Some Clinton backers really need to realize the primary battle was over a long time ago.
Those who have read Obama’s actual words are far less shocked than Krugman. Steve Benen writes, “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see why the president’s comments this morning about the bonuses awarded to the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Chase were so controversial. The wording was a little awkward, but that’s about it.”
Greg Sargent has posted the actual transcript with Obama’s remarks, noting that “the comments seem a bit more nuanced than the headlines suggest.” Here is the transcript (emphasis mine on the key parts that people such as Paul Krugman have ignored):
QUESTION: Let’s talk bonuses for a minute: Lloyd Blankfein, $9 million; Jamie Dimon, $17 million. Now, granted, those were in stock and less than what some had expected. But are those numbers okay?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, first of all, I know both those guys. They’re very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That’s part of the free market system. I do think that the compensation packages that we’ve seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance. I think that shareholders oftentimes have not had any significant say in the pay structures for CEOs.
QUESTION: Seventeen million dollars is a lot for Main Street to stomach.
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, $17 million is an extraordinary amount of money. Of course, there are some baseball players who are making more than that who don’t get to the World Series either. So I’m shocked by that as well. I guess the main principle we want to promote is a simple principle of “say on pay,” that shareholders have a chance to actually scrutinize what CEOs are getting paid. And I think that serves as a restraint and helps align performance with pay.
The other thing we do think is the more that pay comes in the form of stock that requires proven performance over a certain period of time as opposed to quarterly earnings is a fairer way of measuring CEOs’ success and ultimately will make the performance of American businesses better.
Greg Sargent also points out:
It seems like there’s a bit more of an emphasis here than the initial story suggested on his support for specific measures to check the long-term trend of inflated bonuses, and the thrust of his comments seem aimed at combating the perception that such policies are anti-business.
Steve M. argues that Obama is not going to be successful in speaking in the middle on economic issues such as this:
Look, obviously Obama is trying to thread the needle here. But why bother? No one the right is going to give him credit for this — they’re all too invested in the Obama-as-socialist meme. (Without that, what would Glenn Beck have to talk about every day on radio and TV?) Here’s National Review, in response to the original Bloomberg report, accusing him of making the statement because his party is losing Wall Street donations, and calling the “praise of the free market … about as bland and uncontroversial as it gets” — then slamming him for releasing the full transcript (“the White House is already starting to walk [the remarks] back”). No love there.
Every teabagger is going to ignore the positive words about capitalism — and yet every liberal and every moderate swing voter is going to hear just what Krugman heard: a clueless president saying nice words about the enemy
Steve is correct that teabaggers will ignore the positive comments on capitalism which do not match their absurd belief that Obama is a socialist, but they were never going to vote for him. The point is not whether Obama is clueless in playing politics here but that he is not playing politics at all.
As he has done from the start, Obama is trying to talk to voters as intelligent adults. He is saying what he really believes, not what he thinks is the politically safest thing to do. Doing so he loses the support from ideologues of both the far right and left. He also retains the respect of independents such as myself who generally do support the free market system, but also agree with Obama’s remarks that CEO pay has exceeded what is deserved based upon their performance.
Update: More on the White House response.