White House Pushback

February 20, 2009 11:13 a.m.

A bit earlier this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made statements which many have taken as pushback against the rising tide of rumors that Citigroup and Bank of America could soon be taken over by the government.

Gibbs said, “This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go, ensuring that they are regulated sufficiently by this government. That’s been our belief for quite some time, and we continue to have that.”

I’d be curious what others think. But when I heard this, this struck me as a pretty mild response, given how rapidly people seem to be moving toward the belief that these banks are at their last gasps. It’s not completely on point for the question at hand and it refers to preferences not what may actually happen.

To be clear, I would not expect the White House to make definitive statements in such a situation unless they’d really made a clear decision that any sort of government take over of these banks was out of the question — and ruling that out seems crazy under the present circumstances. And no question this is a very delicate messaging situation. But my own take was that these statements do not tell us that much.

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