Ever the disingenuous troll, Greenwald at first did not even include the President's explanation. He cut the quote off here:
Obama replied:See, what he held back from his readers, at least at first, in true Fox-lover fashion, is what the president said in his interview immediately following that line. Luckily, this being the age of the Internet and what not, some of us insist on finding out the truth on our own.
I can’t, as President of the United States, comment on the decisions about particular prosecutions. That’s the job of the Justice Department, and we keep those separate so that there’s no political influence on decisions made by professional prosecutors.
THE PRESIDENT: I can tell you, just from 40,000 feet, that some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street, in some cases, some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street, wasn't illegal.Sub-prime, no-due-diligence mortgages? Legal. Derivatives traded in the cover of dark? Legal. Your bank chopping up good mortgages and bad mortgages and selling them in pieces? Legal. Credit card companies deceiving you by not telling you how much you'd pay in interest if you only paid the minimum interest? That was legal, too. Wall Street's worst abuses weren't outrageous simply because they were ethically and morally reprehensible, but also because they were legally permitted.
That's exactly why we had to change the laws. And that's why we put in place the toughest financial reform package since F.D.R. and the Great Depression. And that law is not yet fully implemented, but already what we're doing is we've said to banks, "You know what? You can't take wild risks with other people's money. You can't expect a taxpayer bailout. We're gonna ask you to set up a living will, so that if you are going down, we've already figured how to break it up, without harming the rest of the economy."
I guess Glenn got caught though. So he put up this "update":
It’s certainly true, as President Obama said, that many of the unethical and damaging acts of Wall Street were not illegal: thanks in large part to the orgy of de-regulation that took place in the Clinton era under Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Gary Gensler and others (also known as: Obama’s economic team). But — as even life-long Wall Street apologist Alan Greenspan admits — much of what was done by Wall Street was outright fraud. Even after the 1990s spasm of deregulation, fraud — e.g., representing debt instruments to the public as sound and top-grade while scorning them privately as toxic junk — is (as Greenspan pointed out) still very much illegal, criminal, under existing statutes.Of course, instead of being apologetic about deceiving his readers - umm, what I'd call perpetrating 'fraud' on his readers - by quoting President Obama out of context, fraudster Greenwald takes this opportunity to berate the President some more. See how he puts the blame on President Clinton and by extension, on President Obama for hiring people from the Clinton administration? To be sure, President Clinton and Democrats in the Congress as the century turned were responsible in very significant part for deregulation of the financial industry. I wonder why, though, Glenn has his knives out for Summers and Geithner, but not, let's say, Ted Kennedy or Sherrod Brown, who all voted for the repeal of Glass-Steagall. It's not a bad idea to be mad at the ones responsible for deregulation, including the Democrats, but Greenwald still has several problems with the truth:
First, Geithner had nothing to do with the repeal of Glass-Steagall. At the time of deregulation, he was the undersecretary of Treasury for International Affairs. He wasn't exactly involved nitty gritty in the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
Second, Greenwald completely ignores the Republican signature on deregulation. Glass-Steagall was repealed, after all, by a Republican Congress that passed a law named after three Republicans: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Nor does Glenn say a word about the total lack of financial enforcement during the George W. Bush administration, or the fact that President Bush forced Freddie and Fannie to back unqualified, no-money down, sub-prime mortgages, which was a large part of what lead to the financial collapse in 2008. One wonders why someone so quick to claim the mantle of the Left is so on the beat to let the Right off the hook. Makes you think, don't it.
Third, for all of the faults of the Democrats in the late 1990s for jumping on the bandwagon of deregulation, when they got a chance to right that wrong under President Obama by re-regulating Wall Street, they did. With President Obama's unrelenting persistence, the Democratic majority in the last Congress passed the most significant financial regulatory reform since the 1990s, ensuring that regulators had the power to close down institutions posing a threat to the country's financial stability and to make the banks pay for that orderly process, forcing lenders to retain a portion of mortgages they hold, forcing derivatives to trade in an open exchange, and establishing the nation's very first independent agency whose sole goal would be to protect consumers of financial products from financial industry abuses.
As for fraud on Wall Street, the Obama administration has prosecuted it, and will continue to do so. Anyone remember Raj Rajaratnam, who was put away for 11 years in federal prison after being convicted on 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud in the largest insider trading case in history? Yelling about fraud without mentioning this case, flat out, makes Greenwald a liar. In addition, prosecutions in the legal environment created by deregulation take a long time to build even when there is a case, and the statute of limitation hasn't run out yet. Any good prosecutor knows that you don't go to court with a half baked case just because people want someone to be punished. As Secretary Geithner said in October, more actions against Wall Street are coming.
In another stroke of pure opportunistic and breathtaking dishonesty, Glenn, of course purports to contradict the President's claim that he does not handle Justice Department work on a case-by-case basis. He went on a rant about how the White House has "politically pressured" the Justice Department on not pursuing prosecutions of Bush administration officials. Mind you, any accusation of political pressure thwarting any investigation by the Justice Department is entirely hearsay, but hey, lawyer Glenn Greenwald wouldn't know better than to go by that or anything now, would he. What the President and the White House said was that the President was focused on pushing for his policy agenda, rather than prosecuting and investigating the Bush administration. There is no evidence that anyone in the White House prevented any specific DOJ investigation from happening.
What Barack Obama did do was make a judgment call: was he going to spend his political capital and his time prosecuting the previous administration (which, with the current Supreme Court, let's face it, has little chance of ultimate success), or was he going to use it to bring the changes that was needed going forward? He chose the latter. When he became President, Barack Obama was thrust at the helm of the Titanic after it hit a couple of icebergs. He had to make decisions about what to do going forward to fix an economy that had its bottom falling out and people who were hanging on by a thread. He had to focus on things like an economic recovery package, extending unemployment benefits along with COBRA coverage and health care reform. He had to expand children's health insurance and school lunches so children don't suffer. He had to pass student loan reform, credit card reform and financial reform to close the door to the kind of reprehensible behavior we have seen from the financial institutions to exploit the poor and the middle class.
For affluent privileged elites like Glenn Greenwald, those might seem insignificant and the prosecution of Bush officials a more pressing matter. But with all respect due you, Glenn, people needed help, and they still do. You know, Glenn, not everyone has the luxury to write columns to sell stuff for their financial benefactors. Some of us - actually a good majority of us - have to think about where our next meal is coming from or how we're going to pay some major medical expense or how we'll keep a roof over our heads - rather than perpwalks on Wall Street. And we'd like a president who gave that the first priority rather than a pompous right wing libertarian pontificator who is a living, breathing, talking fraud.