The Obama Administration Is Trying To Have It Both Ways on Bank Bailouts


When the Obama administration is not even fooling the most liberal of magazines, you know they have a problem:

The Obama administration wants Americans to realize what a good job they and the Bush administration did saving the economy from a second Great Depression. But they’d prefer not to make this case directly. They want journalists to do it for them.

The journalists in the room justifiably focused their questions on things that the Obama administration and the Treasury Department have not done well enough: helping struggling homeowners, lowering unemployment, and moving towards a financial order where these sorts of crises are no longer inevitable. The Treasury folks mostly wanted to talk about how successful the bailouts were. But they made that argument in a no-direct-quotes, no-television, you-can’t-even-say-our-names briefing for twenty or so journalists on a Friday afternoon. In other words, in a manner that would not associate them too closely with this argument. They did it in this fashion because they want to influence our future reporting (a fair-enough desire). But they don’t want to take on the political challenge of directly defending their massively unpopular actions in the public eye.

Senior Treasury officials clearly believe that the financial sector bailouts were a brave choice that worked out as well as anyone could have hoped, and they said as much on Friday. I’m bound by the agreement not to quote any of them directly.

The Treasury Dept has these “semi regular” invitation-only background press briefings for liberal journalists like Politico’s Mike Allen, Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasiripour, the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, Reuters’ Felix Salmon, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson and ThinkProgress’ Matt Yglesias. But no quotes are allowed. They trust these liberal foot soldiers to their job, but sometimes some real backbone emerges among these journalists.

So, as you can see, the Obama administration put on a power point presentation to “influence future reporting.” One has to laugh at Mother Jones injecting in there “a fair enough desire.” As usual, Obama wants his cake and eat it too. He wants to assure everyone that the bank bailouts were SO necessary and saved us all, but we don’t really need to talk about or report about it in any other way. Just report the Obama spin, and leave the truth out of it. And, of course, there is the continuation of the “blame Bush” theme that Obama still uses, even as runs for re-election. As if the last three years never happened. As if Obama hasn’t been our leader for three long years.

But when asked about the bank bailouts in public, Obama and top administration officials usually mention that the Bush administration launched the bailouts

Mother Jones points out how in Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address he talked about how he “hated” the bank bailouts, but they were simply “necessary,” but that’s not the spin from the Treasury Department this last week:

….senior Treasury officials spoke about the bailouts on Friday: a wise choice that worked out better than anyone could have anticipated, and a program that makes the administration proud. That appraisal is not on the record.

Even the most liberal magazine on this planet can’t help but point out the ridiculous nature of this administration of trying to spin something both ways.

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