The Squid and the (London) Whale
May 22, 2012
As soon as we learned that the trader largely responsible for JP Morgan’s $2 billion-and-counting loss had been nicknamed “the London Whale,” it was pretty much inevitable that we’d find a squid on the other side of the trade. And whaddya know. It turns out there was a squid involved! Better yet, it wasn’t just any squid, but a great vampire squid—the kind that wraps itself around the face of humanity and jams its blood funnel into... well, you know the rest. Over to you, Wall Street Journal: A group of about a dozen banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
My Day in Mitt Romney’s Book Club
May 21, 2012
Like any Woody Allen fan, I’ve been waiting my entire adult life to re-enact the Marshall McLuhan scene from “Annie Hall.” Today, Mitt Romney and Jonathan Chait finally gave me the excuse I needed. Here’s the backstory: On Friday, Romney told a crowd in New Hampshire that he was reading my recent book on Obama and the economy. The book’s take-away, according to Romney, is that Obama deliberately slowed the recovery to focus on health care reform. “In this book, they point out that they said the American people will forget how long the recovery took,” Romney said.
May 18, 2012
Any taxonomy of first friends includes a few familiar types. There’s the amiable glad-hander destined for the outer Cabinet, like George W. Bush crony Don Evans. There’s the scheming, scandal-prone loyalist, like the Clinton hanger-on Harry Thomason, of Travelgate infamy. And then there’s the discreet consigliere who serves alternatively as fixer, sounding board, chief surrogate, and all-around defender of the faith. Personal friends with such outsize influence are actually quite rare in presidential politics. Within recent administrations, only Valerie Jarrett really fits the profile.
Why the White House Is Sweating JP Morgan
May 17, 2012
The Wall Street Journal has an intriguing story today about the anxiety in the White House over $2 billion-and-counting loss that JP Morgan announced last week. At first blush, the reason for the angst isn't entirely clear. After all, the loss would seem to strengthen the case for financial reform, which, as it happens, the president signed into law two years ago, and which Mitt Romney opposes. To the extent that JP Morgan revives the debate over financial reform, it would seem to benefit Barack Obama. But, alas, the issue is more complicated than that.
Jamie Dimon Annihilates the Case Against Reform
May 11, 2012
Ever since the bottom fell out of the financial markets in late 2008, Jamie Dimon has had one overriding message for Washington: Don’t crucify me for the sins of other banks. Or, as Dimon told me two years ago: “It’s never fair to punish everybody regardless of their behavior. There are good banks and bad banks just like there are good politicians and bad politicians.” Other megabanks had vaporized themselves by piling on preposterous amounts of risk—often risks they only dimly understood.
The Man Who Beat Lugar Is—Gasp!—Right
May 09, 2012
If you were trying to get a handle on what the Senate will look like over the next decade or so, you could have done worse than watch Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly make the rounds on television Wednesday morning. Mourdock is, of course, the man who just ousted Indiana’s longtime eminence, Dick Lugar, from the Senate. Donnelly is the Democratic congressman he’ll be facing in November. Mourdock fulminated against everything Lugar stood for—namely bipartisanship and civility in politics, but also the auto bailouts that saved tens of thousands of Indiana jobs.
On Gay Marriage, the Real Risk Is For Romney
May 09, 2012
In endorsing gay marriage, Barack Obama may have gotten ahead of public opinion on one of the most emotional issues in politics. And yet I can’t help thinking the move poses more risk for Mitt Romney. Am I crazy? The conventional wisdom is that the president’s decision firms up his base, especially the portion that helps fund his campaign, but potentially hurts him among swing voters.
Why Does Wall Street Hate Obama? Naivete
May 04, 2012
Any honest discussion of Obama and populism arrives pretty quickly at two conclusions. The first is that Obama has become a more populist politician than anyone detected early in his presidency. The second is that, even so, there’s probably never been a less populist president who’s stirred up so much vitriol on Wall Street. The obvious question is why, and this forthcoming Times magazine piece on Obama's fundraising hints at the best explanation yet: For the next hour, the [Wall Street] donors relayed to Messina what their friends had been saying.
Does It Really Matter Who Bloomberg Endorses?
May 02, 2012
The Times has a piece today on the intense behind-the-scenes competition to seduce the Upper East Side’s favorite mayor—replete with secret meetings, intimate golf outings, and vice-presidential drop-bys. As the piece puts it: “Two presidential candidates who agree on very little, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, have reached a rare consensus: they are both determined to score the endorsement of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.” The question is, er, why?
WH Official: “Offense is Better Than Defense”
May 01, 2012
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how the 2012 Obama campaign had a noticeably harder edge than the 2008 edition. While I was reporting the piece, some of the people I spoke to at the White House and working on the campaign downplayed the differences between this time and last time, but none of them put much effort into denying it.