Presidential Pressure Sometimes Backfires

People have spent a fair amount of time criticizing President Obama not to do more to “pressure” people to do this or that. At the same time, many progressives have spent a fair amount of time criticizing President Obama for seemingly pressuring New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to agree to a relatively bank-friendly settlement of foreclosure fraud cases. Today, the Daily News writes that not only is Schneiderman not backing down he’s pushing back with a letter to his campaign email list titled “Standing Up For You”:

You might have been following the latest developments related to the national settlement of the mortgage probe, including this story in today’s Huffington Post about our tough fight for a comprehensive resolution to this crisis. Let me tell you directly: I am deeply committed to pursuing a full investigation into the misconduct that led to the collapse of America’s housing market, and to seeking a resolution that gives homeowners meaningful relief, allows the housing market to begin to recover, and gets our economy moving again. Our ongoing investigation into the housing crisis cannot be shut down to accommodate efforts to settle quickly and give banks and others broad immunity from further legal action. If you have any thoughts or concerns about this critical issue, please contact me at 1–800–771–7755, or send a message via Facebook or Twitter.

The HuffPo story in question, for the record, is by frequent Treasury critic Shahien Nasiripour and it’s precisely about the administration seemingly trying to kneecap Schneiderman. One problem with threatening people is that they may not back down, and if they don’t back down you then need to pull the trigger (“New York Attorney General Kicked Off Government Group Leading Foreclosure Probe”), and having pulled the trigger you may face a backlash. That’s the story of Barack Obama versus a Democratic Party statewide elected official in New York State where Obama is much more popular than he is in Arkansas or Louisiana or West Virginia or Nebraska or Alaska or North Carolina or other places where he might try to pressure Democratic Party elected officials.

Note that this is not to say that President Obama is somehow a pitiful helpless giant or that one should be indifferent to the question of who occupies the White House. Obama plays a role in a vastly wider range of issues than Schneiderman. But on a great many of those issues, his authority is shared with that of other people. And when it’s shared with Eric Schneiderman the issue of “what will Eric Schneiderman do next” is determined primarily by Eric Schneiderman’s judgment about what Eric Schneiderman wants to do.