Ex-Goldman chief snipes back at Bernie Sanders' Wall Street hate-tweet
'Perhaps the senator wants to feel hated because he hates'
Bernie Sanders may have fancied he was channeling Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Twitter generation, with a post about "welcoming the hatred of crooks who destroyed our economy."
But the self-described democratic socialist faced one tactical pitfall that the 32nd president didn't have to worry about: Social media gives the targets of political crowd-baiting a chance to punch back, as former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein did on Saturday.
"I don't have 'hatred for' Bernie Sanders," said Blankfein, who led the investment bank through the 2008 financial crisis, weathering criticism that the firm bet against its own clients as well as blistering scrutiny on Capitol Hill. "I just disagree strongly with policies that would have the government manage so much more of our economy."
Perhaps, he added slyly, Sanders "wants to feel hated because he hates."
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The Vermont independent isn't the first presidential candidate to describe himself as hated. Then-President Roosevelt expressed similar sentiments in a speech at Madison Square Garden in New York during his 1936 re-election bid.
His administration, which came to power in 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, spent its first term fighting business monopolies, reckless banking and class antagonism — "enemies of peace," Roosevelt said, "which had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs."
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"We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob," Roosevelt continued. "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."
If Sanders' tweet sounds similar, it's not by accident. He published a list on his campaign website of wealthy and powerful critics, topped by a quote from Roosevelt asking people to judge him by the enemies he made.
The manifest includes former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Blankfein himself, accompanied by unflattering highlights from Goldman's history.
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In 2010, the Wall Street firm agreed to pay a record $550 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission claims that it misled investors in a high-risk mortgage product just as the country's multitrillion-dollar housing market was starting to collapse. The same year, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi described the bank as a "vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
The article's tone reflected public ire over the crisis as well as the government's response, pouring billions of dollars in bailouts into financial institutions to prevent their collapse even as plummeting stock prices wiped out trillions of dollars in market value, home foreclosures skyrocketed and unemployment spiked to 10 percent.
Sanders, himself a critic of the government's handling of the crisis, has capitalized on the grudge that remains to outpace contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, arguing that big banks should be broken up and interest rates capped at 10 percent.
The senator's Friday tweet about welcoming the hatred of people he viewed as criminals was linked to a Financial Times article in which Blankfein, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, said he might find it harder to vote for Sanders than for President Trump, whose average approval rating has never topped 50 percent.
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"The Democrats would be working very hard to find someone who is as divisive as Trump," Blankfein told the outlet. "But with Bernie, they would have succeeded."
Democrats, he added, would benefit from acknowledging Trump's economic accomplishments. The banker, who survived lymphoma before retiring in 2018, has also taken hits from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who's fighting Sanders for her party's nomination and is herself an outspoken critic of the finance industry.
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"If Dems go on to nominate Sanders, the Russians will have to reconsider who to work for to best screw up the U.S.," Blankfein tweeted earlier in February. "Sanders is just as polarizing as Trump AND he’ll ruin our economy and doesn’t care about our military. If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around."
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have reached a similar conclusion. Last week, U.S. intelligence agencies that said the Kremlin intervened in the 2016 election on Trump's behalf, warned that Russian agents were attempting to boost Sanders' candidacy while simultaneously giving Trump another assist.