White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responds to a CNBC analyst’s rant against the president’s mortgage-rescue plan
The White House apparently noticed yesterday when a CNBC analyst’s impassioned critique of President Obama’s mortgage-rescue plan became an Internet phenomenon.
At the presidential press briefing today, press secretary Robert Gibbs eagerly responded to a reporter’s question about Rick Santelli’s rant amid sympathetic, angry traders at the CME Group in Chicago.
“I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so,” Gibbs said, according to an account by the newssite Politico. “I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives, but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school.
“I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street,” the White House spokesman continued. “I think the verdict is in on that.”
Santelli later responded to Gibbs in an MSNBC interview, pointing out his complaint was based more on philosophical differences than on details of the plan.
Gibbs contended Santelli “has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won’t help everyone.”
“This plan helps people who have been playing by the rules. … I would encourage him to read the president’s plan. … I’d be more than happy to have him come here to read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee – decaf,” Gibbs said with a smile in an obvious reference to Santelli’s passion.
The spokesman showed reporters a copy of Obama’s plan.
“Download it, hit print, and begin to read it,” he said.
See Santelli’s rant below or here.
But Santelli wasn’t the only one giving an emphatic thumbs down to Obama’s economic policies yesterday. His nearly three-minute rant drew approving hoots and comments from nearby traders who apparently backed his contention that the Obama administration is promoting bad behavior that must be causing the founding fathers to roll over in their graves.
“We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” Santelli told CNBC “Squawk Box” co-anchor Joe Kernan. “All you capitalists who want to show up at Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”
Some viewers already are comparing Santelli’s rant to the well-known scene from the movie “Network” in which character Howard Beale stands up in the middle of his newscast and declares, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Santelli responds to Gibbs
Later today, MSNBC host Chris Matthews, on his “Hardball” program, invited Santelli to respond to Gibbs’ comments.
Asked if he was offended, Santelli said he was a “little disappointed” but understood the presidential spokesman’s stance.
“I guess I would say it this way,” Santelli said, “When there are actually some details in the plan, I will pay more even attention to it. But my rant wasn’t about the plan specifically, it was about a philosophical issue, Chris.”
Referring to the government’s intervention in household mortgage contracts, the CNBC analyst said, “The philosophical issue is this: In America, a card laid is a card played. OK. Contract law should be sacred. I don’t know that any form of government should be able to come between a person who contracted with an institution and a person that signed on the dotted line.”
Matthews later accused Santelli of “coming down hard on Barack.”
“No, I’m not, I’m not coming down hard on Barack,” Santelli replied. “I’m coming down hard on the notion that I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution where if you work hard, you’re looked at as being dispassionate, inhumane, because you won’t let your government redistribute what you’ve worked hard for.”
Santelli said he wants to leave his children “a legacy, not trillion-dollar deficits.”
His offspring, he said should have “the ability to wake up every morning and try to be the best that they can be, and if they work hard and want to do things with the money they make, it should be theirs, and it should be their decision.”
“I don’t understand why our leaders need to be in between that dynamic,” he said.
‘This is America’
Yesterday, Santelli said the administration should find out if the American people really want to “subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”
“Or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?” he asked.
CNBC’s Rick Santelli yesterday at the CME Group in Chicago
An unidentified trader on the floor near Santelli shouted out, “Hey Rick, that’s a novel idea.”
Co-anchor Kernan tried to humor Santelli, responding to the support from the traders by interjecting, “They’re like putty in your hands.”
“No they’re not, Joe, they’re not like putty in our hands. This is America.”
Santelli then turned his back to the camera and dramatically asked the traders, “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise (your) hand.”
Boos went up from the floor as none of the traders appeared to raise their hands.
“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli asked to the camera.
The unidentified trader to Santelli’s right then leaned into the analyst and said loud enough to be picked up on microphone, “How ’bout we all stop paying our mortgages. It’s a moral hazard.”
Kernan then said, “This is like mob rule here. I’m getting scared.”
“Don’t get scared, Joe,” Santelli responded. “Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective, now they’re driving ’54 Chevys, maybe the last great car to come out of Detroit.”
CNBC’s Rick Santelli addresses traders at the CME Group in Chicago
After an exchange with another guest, Santelli returned at the end of the segment, referring to the traders as a “pretty good statistical cross-section of America, the silent majority.”
“Not-so-silent majority,” said co-anchor Becky Quick.
Quick asked Santelli if the traders were opposed to other economic measures from the Obama administration, including the newly approved $787 billion stimulus plan.
“They’re pretty much of the notion that you can’t buy your way into prosperity,” he replied. “And if the multiplier that all of these Washington economists are selling us is … that we never have to worry about the economy again, the government should spend a trillion dollars an hour, because we’ll get 1.5 trillion back.
CNBC panelist Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co., interjected, “Rick, I congratulate you on your new incarnation as a revolutionary leader.”
“Somebody needs one,” Santelli responded. “I’ll tell you what, if you read our founding fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.”
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