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The Dishonest "Blame Dodd" Scheme from Treasury officials
Salon ^ | March 18, 2009 | Glenn Greenwald

Posted on 03/18/2009 7:50:55 PM PDT by Yardstick

There is a major push underway -- engineered by Obama's Treasury officials, enabled by a mindless media, and amplified by the right-wing press -- to blame Chris Dodd for the AIG bonus payments.  That would be perfectly fine if it were true.  But it's completely false, and the scheme to heap the blame on him for the AIG bonus payments is based on demonstrable falsehoods.

Jane Hamsher has written the definitive post narrating and indisputably documenting what actually took place.   The attempt to blame Dodd is based on a patently false claim that was first fed to The New York Times on Saturday by an "administration official" granted anonymity by Times reporters Edmund Andrew and Peter Baker (in violation, as usual, of the NYT anonymity policy, since all the official was doing was disseminating pro-administration spin) The accusation against Dodd is that there is nothing the Obama administration can do about the AIG bonus payments because Dodd inserted a clause into the stimulus bill which exempted executive compensation agreements entered into before February, 2009 from the compensation limits imposed on firms receiving bailout funds.  Thus, this accusation asserts, it was Dodd's amendment which explicitly allowed firms like AIG to make bonus payments that were promised before the stimulus bill was enacted.

That is simply not what happened.  What actually happened is the opposite.  It was Dodd who did everything possible -- including writing and advocating for an amendment -- which would have applied the limitations on executive compensation to all bailout-receiving firms, including AIG, and applied it to all future bonus payments without regard to when those payments were promised.  But it was Tim Geithner and Larry Summers who openly criticized Dodd's proposal at the time and insisted that those limitations should apply only to future compensation contracts, not ones that already existed.  The exemption for already existing compensation agreements -- the exact provision that is now protecting the AIG bonus payments -- was inserted at the White House's insistence and over Dodd's objections.  But now that a political scandal has erupted over these payments, the White House is trying to deflect blame from itself and heap it all on Chris Dodd by claiming that it was Dodd who was responsible for that exemption.

Jane's post documents this sequence of events without any possibility for doubt.  The debate that took place over limits on executive compensation for bailout-receiving companies only occurred six weeks ago, and it is all documented in the public press.  Dodd was the one fighting against the White House in order to apply the prohibition to all bonus payments, i.e., to make the compensation limits retroactive as well as prospective.  As but one crystal-clear example that proves this, here is a February 14 article from the Wall St. Journal on the debate over executive compensation limits:

The most stringent pay restriction bars any company receiving funds from paying top earners bonuses equal to more than one-third of their total annual compensation.  That could severely crimp pay packages at big banks, where top officials commonly get relatively modest salaries but often huge bonuses.

As word spread Friday about the new and retroactive limit -- inserted by Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut -- so did consternation on Wall Street and in the Obama administration, which opposed it.

Can that be any clearer?  It was Obama officials, not Dodd, who demanded that already-vested bonus payments be exempted.  And it was Dodd, not Obama officials, who wanted the prohibition applied to all compensation agreements, past and future.  The provision which shielded already-promised bonus payments from the executive compensation limits ended up being inserted at the insistence of Geithner.  A spokesperson for Dodd, who is now consumed by these completely unfair attacks, finally confirmed today that these provisions were inserted at the direction of Treasury officials:

Senator Dodd’s original executive compensation amendment adopted by the Senate did not include an exemption for existing contracts that provided for these types of bonuses. Because of negotiations with the Treasury Department and the bill Conferees, several modifications were made, including adding the exemption, to ensure that some bonus restrictions would be included in the final stimulus bill.

During the debate over these provisions, The Wall St. Journal article identified above reported explicitly that it was Geithner and Summers who were rejecting Dodd's limits on executive compensation as too broad and demanding that already-vested payments be exempted:  exactly the exemption that protected the AIG bonuses and which they're now trying to blame on Dodd:

The administration is concerned the rules will prompt a wave of banks to return the government's money and forgo future assistance, undermining the aid program's effectiveness. Both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, who heads the National Economic Council, had called Sen. Dodd and asked him to reconsider, these people said.

At the same time, The Hill reported that "President Obama and the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee [Dodd] are at odds on how to rein in the salaries of top executives whose companies are being propped up by the federal government" and that "most of the administration's concern stems from the Dodd's move to trump Obama's compensation provisions by seeking more aggressive restrictions."  Let's repeat that:  the Obama administration was complaining because the compensation restrictions Dodd wanted were too "aggressive."

Yet now, the Obama administration is feeding reporters the accusation that it was Dodd who was responsible for the exemptions that protected already-vested bonuses.   The Times article from Saturday that started the Dodd scandal thus contains this outrageously misleading claim:

The administration official said the Treasury Department did its own legal analysis and concluded that those contracts could not be broken. The official noted that even a provision recently pushed through Congress by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, had an exemption for such bonus agreements already in place.

And yet another New York Times article from today ("Fingers Are Pointed Across Washington Over Bonuses") -- this one by David Herszenhorn -- contains this White-House-mimicking, misleading passage:

But Mr. Reid mostly ducked a question about whether Democrats had missed an opportunity to prevent the bonuses because of a clause in the economic stimulus bill, part of an amendment by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, that imposed limits on executive compensation and bonuses but made an exception for pre-existing employment contracts.

That was the exact provision that Geithner and Summers demanded and that Dodd opposed.  And even after Dodd finally gave in to Treasury's demands, he continued to support an amendment from Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe to impose fines on bailout-receiving companies which paid executive bonuses (which was stripped from the bill at the last minute).  But now that Treasury officials are desperate to heap the blame on others for what they did, they're running to gullible, mindless journalists and feeding them the storyline that it was Dodd who was responsible for these provisions.  And today, during his White House Press Conference, Robert Gibbs advanced this dishonest attack by repeatedly describing the offending provisions as the "the Dodd compensation requirements."

This is working because, as the White House well knows, Dodd is very politically vulnerable.  He is a major target of the Right because of his genuinely questionable involvement with various banks, including his Countrywide mortgate, and this story (fueled by the fact that Dodd is a receipient of substantial AIG campaign donations), inflames those accusations.  As predictable as can be, right-wing news outlets like Fox, Drudge and others have blown this Dodd story up today into a major scandal -- heaping blame for the AIG payments on Dodd -- and it was all started by Obama officials to ensure that no blame for these provisions was laid where it belongs:  at the feet of Geithner and Summers.

I'm not defending Chris Dodd here.  As I said, there are all sorts of legitimate (though still unresolved) ethical questions about Dodd's personal financial matters.  And if he were responsible for these compensation exemptions, then he ought to be blamed.  But he simply wasn't responsible.  He opposed them vehemently (The Hill at the time even noted that "Dodd is not backing down" from his opposition to the exemption that Geithner/Summers were demanding, and Jane has much more evidence, including the legislative history, conclusively demonstrating what really happened here).  Geithner and Summers obviously thought that the exemption was justified when they were running around protecting those past compensation agreements, and they simply ought to explain why, rather than trying to sink Chris Dodd's political career in order to protect themselves.

The only point here is that what the White House and many journalists are claiming simply did not happen.  They're just inventing a false history in order to blame the politically hapless Dodd for what Geithner and Summers did.  And they're being aided by a right-wing noise machine that knows Dodd is vulnerable and which views the opportunity to blame the AIG bonuses on him, probably accurately, as a final nail in his political coffin (Media Matters today details today the right-wing falsehoods in the attacks on Dodd by documenting that the claims against Dodd are inaccurate, but they don't say who was actually responsible for the exemption).  The next reporter who writes a word about this or listens to anonymous White House officials blame Dodd for these provisions might want to spend a moment reading Jane's post and looking at the evidence showing what actually happened, rather than mindlessly writing down what Rahm Emanuel these anonymous White House officials are whispering in their ears.


TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 111th; aig; bailout; bho44; bhotreasury; blame; bonuses; dodd; geithner; salon
Yeah, it's Salon but it's a good article. It looks like Treasury set up Dodd as the fall guy on this AIG bonuses business.
1 posted on 03/18/2009 7:50:55 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: Yardstick

Dodd will take Geithner down with him, I hope


2 posted on 03/18/2009 7:53:07 PM PDT by hugorand
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To: Yardstick

So why did Dodd say he was was responsible for adding the bonus loophole into the stimulus package that permitted AIG and other companies that received bailout funds to pay bonuses?


3 posted on 03/18/2009 7:53:07 PM PDT by Darkwolf377 (Is the Teleprompter a cabinet-level position?)
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To: Yardstick

They’re both at fault. Geither/Zero for proposing and Dodd for caving. And the Democrats for passing a Porklulus bill they didn’t bother to read. Guess the devil is in the details, eh, Zero?


4 posted on 03/18/2009 7:53:07 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (You're either in or in the way.)
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To: Yardstick

Let the back stabbin begin.


5 posted on 03/18/2009 7:53:10 PM PDT by mylife ( The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: Yardstick

I would be OK with Dodd falling on the sword. For a start!


6 posted on 03/18/2009 7:53:42 PM PDT by eeriegeno (<p>)
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To: Yardstick

That’s what happens when scum hangs with scum!


7 posted on 03/18/2009 7:55:00 PM PDT by classified
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To: Yardstick

Just watched “Greta” and its clear Dodd- who she interviewed in Cap halls earlier this eve- has his ducks in a row.
Its Obama & Co. who are wrong here.

Haven’t read salon article but its probably correct.


8 posted on 03/18/2009 7:56:04 PM PDT by BonRad (As Rome goes so goes the world)
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To: Yardstick

At this rate, after his first 1000 days, Obama will have 1000 scandals.


9 posted on 03/18/2009 7:56:48 PM PDT by P-Marlowe (LPFOKETT GAHCOEEP-w/o*)
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To: Yardstick

Dishonest and dim-O-cRAt... same thing.

LLS


10 posted on 03/18/2009 7:58:02 PM PDT by LibLieSlayer (hussein will NEVER be my President... NEVER!!!)
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To: Yardstick
Will that get Dodd’s Dem friends upset?

I am hopeful that some defections happen quick, it will slow down this train a little bit!

11 posted on 03/18/2009 7:58:13 PM PDT by Kansas58
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To: BonRad

dodd authored the amendment in his own name... so he is not responsible?

LLS


12 posted on 03/18/2009 7:59:22 PM PDT by LibLieSlayer (hussein will NEVER be my President... NEVER!!!)
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To: Yardstick
They are ALL guilty!

1) Dodd lied.

2) Dodd inserted the words. It doesn't really matter (well, it does but not for this purpose) who suggested the words; Dodd, a full-flegded US Senator, inserted them into the bill. If he didn't agree with the change, he was bound by honor and oath not to do that.

3) There is still an open question as to who disappeared Snowe's amendment.

Now feel free to dump all over the unnamed Treasury officials.

13 posted on 03/18/2009 7:59:37 PM PDT by NonValueAdded (May God save America from its government; this is no time for Obamateurs. Emmanuel = Haldeman?)
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To: Yardstick

Dodd is just the fallguy for the bonuses ...
he should get three years strapped to a ‘Countrywide Home Loans’ sign in New Orleans ... at the least ;o)

Barney Frank, Frank Raines and Jamie Gorelick , on the other hand ...
should spend at least 10 years of quality time in Federal Prison
for running a PC Ponzi scheme in DC!!!


14 posted on 03/18/2009 8:00:49 PM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life)
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To: BonRad

I saw it too.

Isn’t it wonderful how polite and solicitous of reporters Dodd is when his nutz are in the wringer.

He should be in trouble more often.

But who is the Salon.com crowd going to go with?

Dodd, I guess, if they can heap it all on Geithner.


15 posted on 03/18/2009 8:00:58 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: Yardstick
Throwing all your problems under the bus seemed like an odd way to campaign -- but it obviously worked for Obama.

Now let's see if it's a workable strategy for actually governing. Methinks that career politicians won't appreciate the constant worry that they will be considered expendable whenever Obama screws up.

16 posted on 03/18/2009 8:01:11 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (American Revolution II -- overdue)
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To: Yardstick

Zer0’s pure socialist/marxist/communist party, along with Dodd and Geithner’s socialist/democratic party must be ousted now!!!!


17 posted on 03/18/2009 8:01:30 PM PDT by IrishPennant (Obama: Succeeding Where Bin Laden Failed)
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To: Yardstick
Yes a good article. It lays the blame for what was an arguably a good provision, (keeping existing contracts intact), which has been horribly demagogued, at the feet of President Obama.
18 posted on 03/18/2009 8:01:33 PM PDT by marktwain
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To: Darkwolf377

Well that’s how the headlines read. The clip of him I saw on CNN he said that he wrote the amendment as it was because the White House pressured him to do it.


19 posted on 03/18/2009 8:02:34 PM PDT by Lost Highway (I don't know what the world may need but a V8 engines a good start for me)
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To: Yardstick

Cheers!

20 posted on 03/18/2009 8:02:41 PM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: Yardstick

Dodd has deserved a good screwin for years. I hope this is it.


21 posted on 03/18/2009 8:04:22 PM PDT by mortal19440
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To: Lost Highway
The clip of him I saw on CNN he said that he wrote the amendment as it was because the White House pressured him to do it.

Saying he did it and then offering an excuse tells me he did it.

22 posted on 03/18/2009 8:04:44 PM PDT by Darkwolf377 (Is the Teleprompter a cabinet-level position?)
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To: Darkwolf377
So why did Dodd say he was was responsible for adding the bonus loophole into the stimulus package that permitted AIG and other companies that received bailout funds to pay bonuses?

Good question. Here's an update to the original post where the writer responds to emailers asking the same thing.

----------------------------------------------

UPDATE III: I'm receiving email regarding the remarks Dodd made today on CNN in which he stated that, at the White House's insistence and over his objections, he agreed to include the pre-February, 2009 carve-out in the stimulus bill.  Some of these emailers have suggested that Dodd's comments are at odds with what I wrote.  They quite plainly are not.

The narrative I wrote here (and which Hamsher wrote in her post) both included exactly that sequence:

That was the exact provision that Geithner and Summers demanded and that Dodd opposed. And even after Dodd finally gave in to Treasury's demands, he continued to support an amendment from Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe to impose fines on bailout-receiving companies which paid executive bonuses."

I explicitly wrote that it was Dodd who, after arguing vehemently against this provision, ultimately agreed to its inclusion.  And the statement from Dodd's office that I quoted above included the same series of events ("Because of negotiations with the Treasury Department and the bill Conferees, several modifications were made, including adding the exemption").  That's exactly what Dodd said today on CNN.

The point was -- and is -- that Dodd was pressured to put that carve-out in at the insistence of Treasury officials (whose opposition meant that Dodd's two choices were the limited compensation restriction favored by Geithner/Summers or no compensation limits at all), and Dodd did so only after arguing in public against it.  To blame Dodd for provisions that the White House demanded is dishonest in the extreme, and what Dodd said today on CNN about the White House's advocacy of this provision confirms, not contradicts, what I wrote.

 

UPDATE IV: From the CNN article on the Dodd interview:

Dodd acknowledged his role in the change after a Treasury Department official told CNN the administration pushed for the language.

Both Dodd and the official, who asked not to be named, said it was because administration officials were afraid the government would face numerous lawsuits without the new language. . . .

I agreed reluctantly," Dodd said. "I was changing the amendment because others were insistent."

It was the Treasury Department -- at least according to a Treasury official granted anonymity for the extremely compelling reason that he "asked not to be named" -- that pushed for the carve-out, and did so over Dodd's objections.  That was the point from the beginning.  That's precisely what made it so outrageous that the administration was trying to blame Dodd for a provision which Obama's own Treasury officials advocated, pushed for and engineered.

Anyone who doubts Dodd's opposition should just go read the above-excerpted articles which reported contemporaneously about the dispute Dodd was having with the White House over the scope of the compensation limits.  For obvious reasons, those real-time accounts are far more instructive about what really happened than what the parties are saying now that everyone is trying desperately to avoid blame for the politically toxic AIG bonus payments.

------------------------------------

23 posted on 03/18/2009 8:05:40 PM PDT by Yardstick
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To: Yardstick
From the article...I'm not defending Chris Dodd here.

Then, let's put the Doddering old fool under oath to get to the bottom of this.

24 posted on 03/18/2009 8:10:10 PM PDT by PGalt
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To: Yardstick

Oh, that vast right-wing press is going to take Obama down. Just who is a member of the right-wing press? Well, Fox (sort of), the Washington Times, and uh, uh, well, Fox, and um...oh, The Weekly Standard. They have us outnumbered 10,000:1 and they still act as if the right-wing press is a dangerous force.


25 posted on 03/18/2009 8:10:16 PM PDT by ElectronVolt
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To: Yardstick
oops...guess they didn't see the cnn interview where Dodd basically changes his story.
26 posted on 03/18/2009 8:10:25 PM PDT by stylin19a (Obama - the ethical exception asterisk administration)
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To: PGalt
He admitted he authorized the payouts to his friends at AIG.

He might as well say his back pockets are full of bribe money.

He's toast, but being a leftist liberal democrat who is in Barney Frank's back pocket (or a few inches from it) he will skate.

27 posted on 03/18/2009 8:12:03 PM PDT by Syncro (Qui non intelligit, aut taceat, aut discat)
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To: stylin19a

oops...I should have read through all the posts first...


28 posted on 03/18/2009 8:13:41 PM PDT by stylin19a (Obama - the ethical exception asterisk administration)
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To: eeriegeno

“I would be OK with Dodd falling on the sword.”

And if he wants to slash a few of his friends in the process, that’s OK too.


29 posted on 03/18/2009 8:17:01 PM PDT by Gil4
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To: Syncro

Whitey the rat didn’t want to be accused of stealing someone’s cheese. Where’s RICO when you need it?


30 posted on 03/18/2009 8:18:48 PM PDT by PGalt
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To: Liberty Valance

sounds right on the “money”.


31 posted on 03/18/2009 8:21:57 PM PDT by BonRad (As Rome goes so goes the world)
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To: Yardstick
“Right-wing press” aside, FOX News’ Special Report at 6 p.m. (EDT) said it appeared that Treasury and White House officials (Rahm Emmanuel) had affected the changes in Dodd’s amendment. Nevertheless, Dodd should be under federal investigation for his Countrywide connections and the house he bought at discount in Ireland from a crook he persuaded Clinton to pardon.
32 posted on 03/18/2009 8:22:10 PM PDT by Brad from Tennessee ("A politician can't give you anything he hasn't first stolen from you.")
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To: Yardstick

There’s no honor among thieves. Hope they all wind up having at each other.


33 posted on 03/18/2009 8:24:19 PM PDT by BusterBear
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To: Brad from Tennessee
Dodd is deep into corruption over the decades.

Hopefully this will be the last straw, but you know how it goes with liberal leftist democrats, they get away with murder.

Indict Dodd and Frank and remove them from power.

34 posted on 03/18/2009 8:31:39 PM PDT by Syncro (Qui non intelligit, aut taceat, aut discat)
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To: Yardstick
I agreed reluctantly," Dodd said. "I was changing the amendment because others were insistent."

Interesting that Dodd was part of original lynch party and had his Claude Rains moment.

What's really interesting is, nobody one time mentioned that Congress is not part of the Executive branch...that if Dodd felt that strongly about it, (considering he's Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking) why did his position folder like a cheap card table ?

I certainly was looking forward to the lawsuits...
35 posted on 03/18/2009 8:40:01 PM PDT by stylin19a (Obama - the ethical exception asterisk administration)
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To: Yardstick

Nonsense. The left went out in force defending Dodd yesterday—Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, Marc Ambinder all bought the kool aid—now their dancing the dance of the seven veils in the hopew they don’t look like stupid patsies.


36 posted on 03/18/2009 8:40:10 PM PDT by the Real fifi
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To: Yardstick

So just when you think you’ve got them dead to rights with their hypocrisy and mendacity on full display, it turns out even they even lie when they confess to lying. Even the hypocrisy turns out to be cover for deeper hypocrisy, and the lie a cover for a deeper lie.


37 posted on 03/18/2009 8:50:52 PM PDT by marron
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To: Yardstick
Democrat cat fight.

Pass the popcorn.

38 posted on 03/18/2009 9:02:22 PM PDT by Bubba_Leroy (The Obamanation Crisis - America Held Hostage)
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To: Yardstick
One of Dodd’s problems is the day before he flatly denied he had any involvement in inserting the legislation. So now his credibility is very tainted. It always was among conservatives.
39 posted on 03/18/2009 9:28:50 PM PDT by Parley Baer
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To: Yardstick
How Democrats Govern


40 posted on 03/18/2009 9:51:19 PM PDT by Iron Munro (Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.)
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To: Yardstick
That is all well and good for Dodd, but if he was so opposed to it, he didn't oppose it very vigorously. If he was so concerned about the bonuses, he could said in Congress and in press conferences that the Treasury and WH was making him do the exemption clause in the bill. He is nothing but a damned coward and liar.
41 posted on 03/18/2009 10:04:43 PM PDT by princeofdarkness ("Obama Lied. Liberty, Morality, and Prosperity Died.")
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To: Yardstick
I explicitly wrote that it was Dodd who, after arguing vehemently against this provision, ultimately agreed to its inclusion.

The author is the one who's spinning as much as the other parties. What he is trying to do is shift blame to Treasury because that's what they WANTED.

If voters WANTED Senator X to vote Pro-Choice, would we be saying "It's not HIS fault, he just agreed to vote that way"? No.

The issue is whether or not Dodd agreed to include this in the bill. He did. He may have been just like every senator, who doesn't agree 100% with everything in every bill. But we hold these senators accountable based on their voting records on bills.

Dodd ultimately agreed to put this in. Period. The writer is attempting to save Dodd's bacon or, more likely, come up with an original angle on the story. I applaud the research that shows Treasury is ALSO a part of this, but it doesn't absolve Dodd one bit.

Thanks for posting the article and the follow-ups, this is good stuff to know even though I ultimately disagree with the writer's interpretation.

42 posted on 03/19/2009 6:05:51 AM PDT by Darkwolf377 (Is the Teleprompter a cabinet-level position?)
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To: Yardstick

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!

43 posted on 03/19/2009 7:03:02 AM PDT by LUV W (The new Boston Tea Party is here, baby, and it's doused in barbecue sauce..Michelle Malkin)
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