by Jules Witcover
In the approaching
Members of what is often regarded as the party of Wall Street must bear in mind the public hostility toward the financial industry in the wake of the economic meltdown widely attributed to its shady practices. Voting against Wall Street reform regardless of its details will only reinforce that cozy reputation at an unfortunate time.
By coincidence or design, the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission to sue Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs for alleged fraud in peddling bad housing investments to trusting customers delivered a further black eye to the already beleaguered industry.
The Democratic leadership is well aware that under these circumstances they have an enhanced opportunity to crack the
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, unable to argue as he did in the health-care fight that the American public was overwhelmingly opposed to the Democratic bill, at first cast the proposed Wall Street reform as another public bailout of the industry.
But Obama in his regular Saturday radio talk called McConnell's remark "cynical and deceptive," leading the Senate Republican leader to rephrase his opposition by saying "both parties agree" there should be no more Wall Street bailouts.
In a speech at
Through all the maneuvering, Obama has held steadfastly to his goal of achieving a new climate of bipartisanship in
Washington, an objective that generally failed in his first year in the presidency. Only his late
personal involvement in the health-care debate brought him a narrow victory, as other Democratic leaders hammered at
Obama's continuing gestures toward bipartisanship, most notably in his daylong
Blair House discussion of health-insurance reform in which Republican leaders called principally for "starting over" on legislation, simply reinforced the
Now Republican senators, many of them facing reelection challenges in November, must weigh the wide public dissatisfaction -- with official, often-stalemated
In this political equation, the Republicans because of their party history appear to have the greater challenge. Will they continue stonewalling on Democratic reform legislation, or join in the general opprobrium of the financial industry's irresponsible practices that hit American taxpayers' pocketbooks so brutally?
In the health-care fight, many in the Republican opposition resorted to class-warfare politics. They characterized the eventual Obama plan as "socialism," warning of "government-run" health care benefiting the poor, ignoring the great public support of such social welfare programs as
This time around in the debate on financial industry reform, aroused public hostility makes it less advantageous politically under the circumstances to tout "capitalism," when its most conspicuously avaricious practitioners on Wall Street have been bleeding investors on Main Street.
In December, the House passed a financial reform bill creating a regulatory entity without Republican support. In the
Resisting Wall Street Reform | Politics
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