100-day all-stars

With the warning that Democrats should not be smug — given the rising anger toward banks and Democrats unable to prevent bank abuses against voters — let’s consider the big winners in the first 100 days of President Obama.

Today we focus on two big winners, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, followed by a warning about banks and dangers to incumbents running in 2010.

Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) has steered Democrats from over 40 senators to 60. The party switch of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) dramatizes the Republican collapse and the skill of Reid in building bridges that turn national trends into power changes in Washington.

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Reid is an informed populist, knowledgeable about finance but in touch with his roots. When Alan Greenspan was helping to cause our crisis, he was sainted in Washington and on Wall Street, but not with Reid, who took Greenspan on, correctly. Reid genuinely cares about workers, homeowners, veterans and hard-hit families. His triumph is timely.

Another big winner is Secretary of State Clinton. She named a first-rate team, including former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) and former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. She shares a genuine friendship and super-alliance with President Obama, and her history-making stature inspires countless people around the world.

As power player personified, Clinton uses her clout to move purposefully in major trouble spots around the world. She recently made tough comments about Pakistan that unnerved the old school, but Clinton was right and her words had the desired effect. JFK’s quip comes to mind: For a man’s job, get a woman.

With Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari coming to Washington, can Obama, Clinton and Holbrooke advance an India-Pakistan treaty? Or will we provide military aid to Pakistan that wastes money escalating tensions with India?

Can Clinton and company advance Middle East peace, open doors to Iran, navigate China and Russia and revive relations in Latin America? Her plate is full, but Secretary Clinton is wielding the big bat at the right time.

And now, the warning about the second 100 days and the 2010 elections: There is anger in the nation, a sense that huge amounts of taxpayer monies are given to banks that hoard money, keep lending down and punish Americans paying for highly unpopular bailouts.

Under the House credit card bill, the effective date is one year out. The bill purporting to protect consumers from abuses guarantees those abuses continue well into election year.

This freight train is headed toward incumbents. Fifty million angry voters receiving election-year credit card rate increases is disastrous politics — and economics. With every new rate increase, anger toward banks (and incumbents) will rise.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a loser in the first 100 days, has a second chance. With Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dodd wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke calling for the Fed to use emergency powers to freeze credit card rates immediately.

Dodd and Schumer are right. Will they persuade the Fed, or include a freeze in the Senate bill, and emerge big winners in the second 100 days? Or will they fail, and support a bill that allows the abuses to continue? Stay tuned.



Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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