Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jon Stewart Attributes Bank Bailouts to Obama. They Were Signed by Bush.

In an otherwise excellent opening segment last night on how Republicans made (in 2008) and still make ludicrous claims about President Obama, Jon Stewart used this clip and response (at 1:40):
Rep. Trent Franks clip, March 2008: "If Mr. Obama should become president, I really believe it will be hard to stop the economy from being socialized."

Jon Stewart: "Socialized economy if Obama is elected in 2008, we were warned! And indeed, Barack Obama did take billions of taxpayer dolllars and redistribute them ... to the banks. So it's kind of socialism in a dislexic, uh..."
President Obama has of course been friendly to the banks, and has not exactly moved us toward a socialist economy, so in the broad sense the point about Republicans being wrong about Obama is certainly true.

But Stewart got this piece just wrong: while Obama voted for the bank bailout (TARP), he was a Senator. TARP was signed by President George W. Bush, on October 3, 2008. Polling has shown this to be a very common misconception.

Come on, Stewart. It's one thing for The Washington Post to be making this error. We expect better from you.

Update: a critic responded to me that, hey, the second $350 billion or so only happened because Obama asked for it. (referring to the 1/12/09 request from the president-elect). And I think that's an important point, and you could go broader and say, well, the Obama Administration administered (or whatever the term is) TARP. They owned it, defended it, etc. Certainly. So I should have written this differently. Yes, the Obama Administration literally did give the money to the banks -- and Stewart's words were not technically incorrect. I think the problem is that what Stewart said sounded, to me, like it was Obama's thing.

The bigger context I need to add is that the issue of Obama and TARP wasn't just that he voted for it as a Senator, and carried it out as President. The point in 2009 was that there was this right-wing anger at Obama, tea party and otherwise, that he had bailed out the banks. But most, though certainly not all, of these right wing critics were not criticizing the Bush Administration in the same way for having signed it into law. Wish I had done this a bit differently -- what do you think?


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