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Huffington on Obama: Changing Rhetoric Not Enough

Arianna Huffington may have made a name for herself as a liberal media mogul, but that certainly didn’t stop her from criticizing the current administration. In her interview with host Tom Ashbrook on Monday, Huffington said President Obama continues to have the wrong approach in addressing the economic crisis. 

“[C]hanging the rhetoric is not really enough,” she said. “You know he really needs to change policies. He needs to change personnel.”

You can listen back to the full show. But below are excerpts from the transcript of the interview.

TOM ASHBROOK: …[Y]ou are pretty tough on this administration, Arianna.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Yes, because we’re clearly not playing by the same rules. Just look at what happened with Wall Street. I mean, we, the tax-payers, gave a $180 billion dollars to AIG.

TOM ASHBROOK: One firm.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  One firm, right? Which in turn, turned around and gave, let’s say to Goldman Sachs, thirteen billion dollars.  And that was 100 cents to the dollar. I mean nobody would negotiate like that if it was their own money.

TOM ASHBROOK: When Lehman was out and things were falling down…

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: And that was the time when there had to have been real conditions like telling them, “OK, we’ll bail you out, but here’s what you have to do. Number one, you need to turn around and lend, so that we can create jobs.” Instead, they cut lending to the tune of $100 billion dollars. Number two, the end of “Too Big to Fail” which, still, even after the end of the Financial Reform Bill, we have not ended. And no bonuses, you know clawbacks. You know, you made all this money on the backs of middle-class families; you got to give some of it back. You got to really work with the families to keep them in their homes. Banks are fighting loan modifications.  They fought the “cramdown” amendment, which would have kept over a million families in their homes. That is absolute negligence. I mean the Obama administration, the Democratic Congress, has a real responsibility for allowing that to happen, for allowing the Treasury to get away with a lousy anti-foreclosure program, which has meant that millions of families are out of their homes. I don’t know, Tom, but I have two daughters, and the idea of a family having to leave their home with children, to move into a motel, to move into a homeless shelter, is devastating.

TOM ASHBROOK: When AIG and the gang are sort of bailed out to fare-thee-well.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Exactly.

TOM ASHBROOK: But, you know Barack Obama had hope and change as his big theme. He had huge support in the general election. What grade would you give him now? And if it’s not up to what you wish, why not? What happened here?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well, what happened is that first of all, the status quo is really hard to change. You know it’s one thing to campaign against the status quo, it’s another thing to become part of it and try and change it from the inside. 

TOM ASHBROOK: But, come on, change was the single word on his banner.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  I know, listen, trust me, I’m not justifying it; I’m trying to explain what happened.  The single most important thing that happened is that he brought in the wrong people to run economic policy. He brought in Larry Summers, who is one of the architects of Glass Steagall … which basically ended these protections that had been put in place with the New Deal. He brought in Tim Geithner. These are smart people, but they are completely Wall Street-centric people. And they completely underestimated the economic crisis. Remember, they kept talking about unemployment being a lagging indicator and down to eight percent.

TOM ASHBROOK: But the President chose them. What about the chief executive himself here?  What about his instincts? They may take a drubbing in the mid-terms. I don’t know. They may.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: They will take a drubbing.

TOM ASHBROOK: But does Barack Obama have the inclination to do it differently somehow?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well that’s really the key. It’s all about – is he going to be able to course correct? He’s changed the rhetoric. Last week, you know, it was a very different Barack Obama on the stand. But changing the rhetoric is not really enough. You know he really needs to change policies.  He needs to change personnel.  When you’re the chief executive of the United States, personnel is policy.  If you put the wrong people in control – and he did that – you’re in trouble. 

 -By staff intern Jessica Willingham.

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