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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama's two faces: In public, he tears Wall Street, in private, not so much

Over the weekend, Obama attacked fat-cat investment bankers, telling "60 Minutes" he didn't become president to aid and abet Wall Street -- which, only a year after the financial meltdown and taxpayer bailout, is now scheduled to hand out tens of billions of dollars in bonuses to its bankers and traders.

But the president's meeting yesterday with the CEOs of the largest banks was nearly a lovefest, I'm told by attendees.

Yes, White House spinmeisters advertised the gathering as a chance for Obama to channel the public's disgust over Wall Street's celebrating while Main Street still suffers 10 percent unemployment, thanks largely to Wall Street's bungling. But that's not what he did.

Obama started off with the obvious, reminding bankers that the bailout of insurance giant AIG benefited them because it meant they could actually collect on the AIG insurance policies (credit-default swaps) on their risky bond-market bets. But he also seemed to concede their dubious claim that some of them probably would've survived an AIG collapse, given all the other billions the government threw at them during the crisis.

After that, people with first-hand knowledge of the sitdown said, it was a heavily scripted affair -- with none of the fireworks Obama displays in public. (continues here)

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