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Lying by example.

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According to Leon Cooperman, in his widely circulated open letter to Obama, Wall Street complaints about Obama concern not the substance of his response to the financial crisis these complainers created — and from which they continue to profit — but “the divisive, polarizing tone of [the President’s] rhetoric.” Color me skeptical, but I don’t think Wall Street much cares about the rhetoric being directed at it, given its embrace of characterizations intended to vilify it. (“Greed is good,” anybody?) The most galling aspect of Cooperman’s letter, however, isn’t its tone-deafness to the larger political climate so much as its utter lack of understanding of what the President has done.

Cooperman begins by setting the tone: “It is with a great sense of disappointment that I write this.” So, from the first, readers know that the author considers himself qualified to pass judgment on the President. Fair enough, but the next sentence shows that he clearly isn’t: “I hoped your election would bring a salutary change of direction to the country[.]” That undefined “salutary” hangs Damocles-like over the rest of the essay. He thought things would change for the better, but he can’t be bothered to define what those “things” are or how they might be “bettered.” That he follows this by admonishing the President for his rhetoric isn’t unsurprising — it’s all he’s got. “Just to be clear,” he writes, when he’s been nothing of the sort. He’s written a template upon which any reader can foist any objection they have to Obama’s management of anything. How clueless is he?

He contends that he’s been “richly rewarded by a life of hard work (and a great deal of luck),” but like most powerful people who appeal to their humble roots, that luck matters less than the hard work. They take to heart the cliché about making your own luck, so this perfunctory invocation of the humility trope is even more perfunctory than most. It’s evident in the way he later extols the virtues of capitalists who, for him, function as benevolent overlords whose sole purpose is to “fill store shelves at Christmas.” The actual people who fill those shelves — not to mention those who make the products placed upon them — may work hard, but they’ve been terribly unlucky. Of course, Cooperman doesn’t say that. Instead, after praising the virtues of he and his, he chastises the President for doing exactly what he’s been doing all this time:

Rather than assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot who musts be subjugated by the force of the state, set a tone that encourages people of good will to meet in the middle.

See what he did there? He and his are “people of good will,” and if the President would only stop describing their behavior in a factual manner and start pretending that they’re other than they are, they would be more than happy to continue doing what they were going to do anyway. Because this “middle” of which Cooperman speaks? Obama’s been there for quite some time, but Cooperman would rather the rest of us not know that.

He’d much rather Obama stop talking about his past compromises, because it’s going to make future ones much more difficult.

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  • I have to take some small issue, SEK. Cooperman actually is in favor of higher taxes on the rich and in particular with respect to some of the tax breaks hedge fund managers get. Too, he’s spoken positively of some of OWS’ aims.

    As you go on to point out, his complaint is about the rhetorical tone, not the substance of Obama’s proposals. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

    • SEK

      That doesn’t undermine the post. I’m talking mostly about his rhetoric, and especially the bit about “the middle,” which he somehow believes Obama’s failed to address. He’s wrong. It takes a certain kind of self-delusion to consider this President to be uncompromising.

      • Ben

        No, you’re mischaracterizing what he’s saying. He’s saying that “class warfare” rhetoric in and of itself, even when employed for good causes, has negative effects.

        The rest of your points are great (and you’re just asking for a critique of your rhetoric if you cite Peggy Noonan as an example of superior rhetoric) but this is off-base.

        • Hogan

          And the negative effects consist mainly of hurting the feelings of rich CEOs and hedge fund managers. So fucking what? Maybe that’s the cost of accomplishing the stuff Cooperman says he wants Obama to accomplish. I’m not simply going to take Cooperman’s word that Obama’s occasional dry sarcasm directed at Cooperman’s buds is politically counterproductive, or even all that “polarizing and divisive.” You’ve got millions of dollars; learn to take a ribbing now and then.

          • Ben

            I completely agree. But that’s an argument about why class warfare rhetoric isn’t harmful, or is needed, or whathaveyou. It’s about the consequences of divisive rhetoric.

            SEK elided divisive rhetoric, which this rich yutz says Obama does, with divisive policies, which Obama does not do, and then chided the yutz for complaining about something Obama doesn’t do.

            • SEK

              Using the phrase “fat cats” in a stump speech before an audience of his own supporters ≠ using the rhetoric of class warfare. I’m calling Cooperman out both on the rhetorical and political fronts. Obama doesn’t say what Cooperman claims he says, nor does he do what Cooperman claim he does. I’m not eliding the difference so much as demonstrating that he’s doubly wrong.

              • Ed

                Not to mention that Obama indirectly walked back the “fat cats” remark as soon as he’d made it and went out of his way to praise these “savvy businessmen.” That wasn’t submissive enough, evidently.

                I remember Michael Lewis observing that at one point Obama had these guys at his sword’s point and he let the moment pass. He now reaps the benefits of his forbearance, with open letters complaining about the banksters’ wounded vanity and “savvy businessman” Jamie Dimon playing footsie with Mittens.

            • commie atheist

              I’d question the divisive rhetoric part, too.

              For example, Mr. Cooperman zeroed in on what he described as the president’s belittling remarks about taxing the wealthy: “If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the 1950s. And they can afford it,” the president said back in June. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”

              Damn, if that’s “belittling,” I’d hate to see Cooperman’s reaction when Obama puts his fingers to his forehead and makes the shape of an L. Jeez, what a bunch of weenies.

        • SEK

          I’m right there with you on opposing violent rhetoric,* but that’s the thing about the rhetoric of “class warfare”: in contemporary politics, such rhetoric is never actually violent. That is, contemporary politicians never talk about class in explicitly martial terms — it’s just that any time anyone talks about class in America, conservatives either 1) insist it doesn’t exist or 2) shout the claim down by calling labeling it as “class warfare.”

          *Did I mention that essay ended up in a rhetoric textbook and that they paid me handsomely for the permission to re-publish it? Blogging: It’s Where The Money’s At.

          • Malaclypse

            Blogging: It’s Where The Money’s At.

            You deserve a tax cut.

            • Kurzleg

              I’m so bitter that there’s no “like” button for this post.

              • Kurzleg

                Er, comment.

                • demz taters

                  Bitter people, always looking for something to cling to

      • Yea, I got that, SEK, which is why I stressed “small issue.”

        My rebuttal to Cooperman would be similar to yours: “Are you kidding me, Leon????”

    • Njorl

      It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

      No, it’s not an important difference. It’s a tactic. “I’m for equal rights for the negroes, but these protest marches have to stop.”

      Can he honestly say that Obama’s rhetoric is worse than that of the right? The man is either a subtle schemer or utterly blinded by his own circumstances.

      • commie atheist

        Someone who refers to Obama and his… (staff? supporters? all-powerful liberal media?) as “you and your minions” is not to taken seriously when it comes to complaints about “rhetorical tone.”

    • dangermouse

      Cooperman actually is in favor of higher taxes on the rich and in particular with respect to some of the tax breaks hedge fund managers get.

      Which is why he’s out there writing open letters saying “holy fuck fellow rich guys we have to raise taxes on ourselves” and not ones whining about how Barack Obama hurt his precious precious feelings.

      Oh, wait.

      • Actually, if you scrolled down the linked article, that’s exactly what he’s done.

        • Hogan

          He says he’s advocated for higher taxes on the rich (and a freeze on entitlements, among other things). He doesn’t say how or to whom.

          • commie atheist

            Any open letter to John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? You know, the guys with any actual power to get those tax increases passed? No? Then I call bullshit.

        • dangermouse

          No I’m pretty sure what he did is write an open letter whining about his precious precious feelings, and not one saying holy shit fellow rich people we should really raise taxes on ourselves.

    • cpinva

      sorry, but the first thing that came to my mind, upon reading this letter was “wow, what a transparently ignorant putz!”. i can’t repeat the second thing, this site might crash.

  • Malaclypse

    They take to heart the cliché about making your own luck,

    I am considering making my own luck in the Brave New Market of tumbrel manufacturing.

    • cpinva

      i suspect guillotines have a higher gross profit margin, but i could be wrong.

      • Malaclypse

        There’s no money in guillotines themselves, but a lot in the blades.

        • Emma in Sydney

          It’s the baskets for the rolling heads that will make you rich. Consumables, people.

          • Ah, but the blades get you a servicing contract. Installation, maintenance, it’s a gold mine!

            • Hogan

              Nah, you can only get disposables now.

              • demz taters

                The real money is in the television franchise.

                • Malaclypse

                  The key is to broadcast enough for the show to make it to syndication. You will need several hundred to be sure.

        • Kurzleg

          Not even the blades. Rather, the blade sharpening. Or is that counter-productive.

    • Dibs on the cucking stool!

      (had to make sure I didn’t Spooner that…)

    • DrDick

      I’m going for guillotines.

  • david mizner

    I think Jonathan Schwarz put it best when he said the super-rich burn “with rage at any suggestion that maybe society should put some limits on the number of Indonesian street children they’re allowed to eat.”

    http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003537.html

    That said, Obama’s tone may truly concern Wall Street. As Obama himself told them, he has stood between the banksters and the pitchforks, and bankers are well aware that Obama has quite intentionally to squelch the populist sentiment that has threatened to bubble over at times — after the AIG scandal for example. To the extent that the President — and the Democratic Party — joins the chorus, that’s a potential problem for Wall Street, which has relied on fealty from both parties. Obama has delivered, giving them 95 percent of what they wanted, but it’s an election season again.

  • Hogan

    Nothing says “more in sorrow than in anger” better than calling the president and his staff “you and your minions.”

    • mark f

      I suppose “minions” beats “ilk,” if only because the latter has become the most overused word in the blogosphere and commentariat.

      • Hogan

        See, I’d have gone with “henchmen,” or possibly “hired goons.”

        • Malaclypse

          Thugs. Union thugs. Alternatively, New Black Panther enforcers.

          • Hogan

            I was thinking mostly of this.

            • Malaclypse

              I bow to your superior Simpsons referencing abilities.

          • Chicago-style urban thugs.

            • Hogan

              mmmmm deep dish thugs

        • Furious Jorge

          Hired goons?

          • Don’t worry, they’re non-union goons, all making just less than 32 hours a week, so they can’t claim benefits.

            We tried to hire, through an agency, enough independent freelance goons working as sub-contractors for the gig, but there just weren’t enough of them…

      • Michael H Scneider

        Myrmidons

        • I remember the myrmidons from Jurassic Park. They were hella scary…

        • rea

          Way too gay.

          • rea

            Hell, even “minions” has its roots in anti-gay insults . . .

      • Kurzleg

        Got ilk?

      • Njorl

        Does anyone ever refer to their own ilk? You never hear anyone say, “Let me check with my ilk and get back to you on that.”

    • Uncle Kvetch

      Nothing says “more in sorrow than in anger” better than calling the president and his staff “you and your minions.”

      He probably thinks he deserves credit for not using “you people.”

  • Uncle Kvetch

    It is with a great sense of disappointment that I write this.

    Concern troll is concerned.

  • (“Greed is good,” anybody?)

    Greed is Good was One of Us in CoopermanWorld. Memory serving, the original is either Ivan Boesky or Carl Icahn talking about one of their early-period (pre-RJR) Private Equity Leveraged Buyouts.

    • rea

      I thought Gordon Gekko said that.

  • Did I miss an Obama speech where he called on us to expropriate the expropriators or something?

    • Malaclypse

      I am shocked at your lack of knowledge, Comrade Machina:

      7. What is the plan or idea or essence of NEP Obamaism?
      (α) Retention of the land in the hands of the state;
      (β) the same for all commanding heights in the sphere of means of production (transport, etc.);
      (γ) freedom of trade in the sphere of petty production;
      (δ) state capitalism in the sense of attracting private capital (both concessions and mixed companies). – V.I. Obama, NOTES FOR A REPORT “THREE YEARS OF OBAMAISM AND THE PROSPECTS OF THE WORLD REVOLUTION” AT THE FOURTH CONGRESS OF THE DLC

      • Sheesh, I knock off hunting for kulaks a little early, a couple hours, just one lousy afternoon, and I miss something important.

  • Hogan

    I think it was the press conference where he said this won’t be a fit country for decent people to live in until the blood of the rich runs in rivers down Wall Street and the last senator has been strangled with the guts of the last televangelist. That might have been a tad over the top for some people.

    • wengler

      His approval ratings might’ve gotten back over 50 percent if he’d said it though.

  • cpinva

    some people have no sense of humor.

    That might have been a tad over the top for some people.

  • wengler

    Mr. Cooperman is so reasonable especially in his offering to raise the retirement age to 70 and freezing entitlement benefits.

    Mr. Obama this man went to public school and became a billionaire! Stop demonizing him and his class! He was so generous as to offer that veterans should have free college. You know the same sort of deal his generation got for existing.

    • commie atheist

      It’s all about shared sacrifice, people! You know, one less meal at Delmonico’s for Mr. Cooperman, one less meal period for some non-hard-laboring 69-year-old. Fair is fair.

  • L2P

    Take up the Rich Man’s burden –
    Hold back those sad, sad tears –
    Go find good will in the middle
    To save our tender ears;
    To serve our lesser’s interests –
    Which we totally want to do –
    Your minions can’t be mean to us,
    Or we won’t vote for you.

  • The Masters of the Universe are very strange. They move in mysterious ways. They have the power to help the downtrodden and would surely do so if it were not for the powerful incantation that the president has used to cast such a powerful spell upon all, that the rich cannot give to the poor and the poor cannot receive.

    Does President Obama still have that bone in his nose?

  • Steve LaBonne

    When worthless, greedy assholes like Cooperman are being trundled off to visit Madame Guillotine, they’ll wish they still had Obama around to protect them.

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