(CNN) - Soon after taking office last January in the midst of the recession, President Barack Obama began railing against "shameful" bonuses paid to Wall Street "fat cats." As recently as last month he called bonuses "obscene." But this week, in an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the President says he doesn't "begrudge" two CEOs he knows who are getting bonuses of $17 million and $9 million. He calls it "part of the the free-market system."
Fact Check: Has President Obama changed his tone on bonuses?
- In January 2009 President Obama declared Wall Street bonuses the "height of irresponsibility." He said it was "shameful" that banks paid out $18.4 billion in bonuses at the same time they were being bailed out by U.S. taxpayers.
- In January 2010 the president referred to "obscene" Wall Street bonuses when he proposed a new tax on big banks to recoup taxpayer bailout money.
- In an oval office interview Tuesday, the president was asked what he thought about a $17 million bonus for JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon and a $9 million bonus for Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Although he was "shocked" by the bonus amounts, the president told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, "I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen." He went on to say, "I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."
- White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki said, "The president has said countless times, as he did in the interview, that he doesn't 'begrudge' the success of Americans" and he "made clear that there are a number of steps that need to be taken to change the culture of Wall Street. A sentiment he has consistently expressed since long before he took office."
Bottom Line: Yes, the president has changed his tone.
Though the president says he's "shocked" over big bonuses, he's toning down the rhetoric toward those who accept them. His characterization of these two CEOs as "savvy businessmen" is a far cry from the "fat cat" references he made at the height of the financial crisis. It bears pointing out, however, that JPMorganChase and Goldman Sachs are among the banks that have paid back their federal bailout money, and President Obama has made clear distinctions in the past between companies that received bailout money and continued to pay big bonuses, and those that did not.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/11/art.cap.gi.jpg caption="Two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied or angry about how the federal government works, the highest level in 14 years, according to a new national poll."]Washington (CNN) - Two-thirds of Americans are dissatisfied or angry about how the federal government works, the highest level in 14 years, according to a new national poll.
But the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released Thursday morning, suggests a partisan divide, with 8 out of ten conservative Republicans viewing how the federal government works in a negative way, but nearly 6 out of ten liberal Democrats saying they were enthusiastic or satisfied.
The 67 percent dissatisfaction level is the highest in ABC News/Washington post polling since it peaked at 70 percent in March 1996, in the months after the a federal government shutdown led by Republicans.
So which political party gets blamed for this dissatisfaction? A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicated that nearly half the public said they were angry at both political parties, with 11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted February 4-8, with 1,004 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
Washington (CNN) - The blizzard that hit Washington couldn't have come at a worse time for a leading veterans group - but the name for its legislative push this week is certainly fitting.
Despite the monster snowstorm, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization is taking its Storm the Hill campaign directly to members of Congress and administration officials to push for veterans' rights.
Because of a fresh round of snowfall Tuesday night - and the federal government being closed much of this week - many of their meetings have been canceled or postponed.
Group founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, an Army veteran, said that despite "snowmageddon," they've been cracking away at the meetings that are still on.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/10/art.reaganbros0210.gi.jpg caption="Brothers Michael Reagan, left, and Ron Reagan, right, are disagreeing about how their father, the former president, would have viewed the Tea Party movement."]
Washington (CNN) - Don't invite the late President Ronald Reagan's two sons over for a tea party, much less a beer.
Well, maybe a beer, kind of like President Obama's "beer summit" last summer at the White House. That might be needed.
The brothers Reagan, Ron and Michael, don't agree on how their dad – often described as the father of the modern day conservatism – would view the Tea Party movement.
Ron, a liberal, told HLN's Joy Behar that he didn't think his father would embrace the Tea Party movement and its activists.
"I think he would be unamused by the TEA partiers with their Hitler signs and all the rest of it," Ron Reagan said in the January 26 interview on CNN's sister network. "No, I don't think he'd be cottoning to that much at all. As much as we're wringing our hands about the Democratic Party though and it's all well that we do that, we have to remember that the alternative, the Republicans are a true train wreck – a train wreck. Look at Sarah Palin. Look at Scott Brown. You know."
Michael fired back at his brother on Wednesday, saying he has a better understanding of their father's political thinking, after all he holds the same conservative views.
"In 1976 and 1980, and throughout his presidency, President Reagan worked tirelessly to build the conservative movement and the Republican Party through the grassroots," Michael Reagan said in a statement. "He knew what it took to build a movement.
"Unlike my brother, I campaigned with and for my father in 1976 and in 1980 – and I feel more qualified to say what he would and would not have supported. He would be applauding the grassroots organization of this country and Sarah Palin for making herself available to elect conservative candidates."
So much for brotherly love.
The CNN Washington Bureau’s morning speed read of the top stories making news from around the country and the world.
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CNN: California Democratic congresswoman to retire
Rep. Diane Watson will retire at the end of the year rather than run for re-election, three Democratic sources tell CNN. Watson will become the seventh House Democrat to retire at the end of the year rather than run for re-election, but the first from a district considered safe for the party.
CNN: Michigan Republican announces retirement
Michigan Republican Rep. Vern Ehlers said Wednesday he will not run for re-election in November. Ehlers is the 16th House Republican to announce plans to leave the House either to run for another office or outright retire.
Bloomberg: Obama Says He’s ‘Fierce’ Free-Market Advocate, Rejects Critics
President Barack Obama said he and his administration have pursued a “fundamentally business- friendly” agenda and are “fierce advocates” for the free market, rejecting corporate criticism of his policies.
Wall Street Journal: Snow Adds To Drift In Politics
In a town where everything takes on political freight, this week's historic snows have dumped a shovelful of mixed metaphors on the federal government. …The storm, the result of two weather systems combining, brought official Washington to a near standstill, not to mention disrupting air travel and knocking out power to thousands in the capital area. Wednesday's snowfall, the fourth in two weeks, topped off what's now the nastiest Washington winter on record—55.6 inches of snow for the season so far—and one of its foulest political seasons, too.
CNN: Biden: Major terror attack on U.S. unlikely
Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that terrorists continue to try to harm the United States, but another "massive" terrorist strike like the September 11, 2001, attacks is unlikely.
CNN: Reagan brothers spar over dad's view of Tea Party movement
Don't invite the late President Ronald Reagan's two sons over for a tea party, much less a beer. Well, maybe a beer, kind of like President Obama's "beer summit" last summer at the White House. That might be needed. The brothers Reagan, Ron and Michael, don't agree on how their dad – often described as the father of the modern day conservatism – would view the Tea Party movement.