CNBC's Harwood Does 180 on Financial Reg Reform, Public's Support Now a Factor
Finally! What the public thinks is now important.
That was the takeaway from an April 22 CNBC "Squawk Box" segment in which the network's Washington correspondent John Harwood explained the upside for the Obama administration in taking an aggressive tack on financial regulation and pushing it through Congress.
According to Harwood, public opinion on this issue favors President Barack Obama. He explained that Wall Street is very unpopular and that's causing some Republicans to be willing to compromise with Democrats on the issue.
"He knows that things are rolling his way on this issue," Harwood said. "You had battle lines initially drawn - both parties took to the trenches, started firing heavy ammunition. But the throw weight is with the Democratic side on this. The public wants financial regulation reform. They don't like Wall Street, just as they don't like Washington. So this is a case where Barack Obama, instead of being the target of public anger, can direct some of it somewhere else. That is what causes Republicans at the end to say, ‘OK, it's time to negotiate, get serious about a deal.' And they're going to get some concessions in that bargaining in exchange for their votes. And they will then be able to stand up and say, ‘This bill was headed to be a bailout bill. We stopped the bailout and everybody can hold hands and say they did something good for the country.'"
But flashback to Jan. 22 when on the same program Harwood explained the public was ill-informed and shouldn't be factored into the equation, because as he put it then, "the public didn't know what it wants." That's something "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernen brought up, but without naming Harwood's statement at the time.
"Well John, it's nice that in this case you figure the public's in support of it," Kernen said. "But that wouldn't necessarily stop an administration from pushing something through. I mean, I'm referencing health care. I mean, it's nice that ..."
Harwood called it "a happy coincidence" that the president would line up on the side of the American public and one of which Kernen sarcastically said was a novel concept.
"Well, sure, but it's a happy coincidence when the thing that you want is the thing that the public wants," Harwood said.
"Exactly - what a concept," Kernen replied. "Let's try it this time. That might be good."
However, later in the segment, Harwood proposed the administration could curry favor with the Tea Party movement because according to the CNBC Washington correspondent - "Tea Party types don't like big Wall Street firms."
"You couldn't dream of a better fight for Barack Obama to have right now, especially after health care, which was exhausting, which was controversial," Harwood said. "It divided Democrats. This is a case where Democrats, first of all, they think the country is broadly on their side. Second of all, it's the kind of issue that if you communicate it properly, might split off some of the Tea Party people from Republicans. If Republicans stand up and say, ‘We want to stop this.' Remember, with a lot of those Tea Party types don't like big Wall Street firms that they think have cost them money. So it's a two-for in that way and it just puts the President on the popular side of an issue that he feels. It's the happy coincidence Joe and I were talking about a moment ago. You don't often get that."