CNBC's Moment of Clarity: Host Understands Why Right 'Sort of Gets Uncomfortable' with Obama

Although to ask this question is to invite with a good degree of criticism, it is still worth asking: Is Obama administration’s approach to publicly reprimanding private industry cause for concern?

On CNBC’s May 4 “Squawk Box,” host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera raised this point and asked Washington correspondent John Harwood if White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ recent statement BP was a little overboard.

“The spokesperson says, quote, ‘We're going to keep our boot on the throats of BP,’” Caruso-Cabrera said. “How is the Business Council going to react to that when they see President Obama?”

Harwood, who often goes easy on the Obama administration, wasn’t so quick to criticize Gibbs for this.  His explanation was that it was a little “hostile,” but repeated Gibbs’ suggestion it was just a regional saying.
“That was an odd turn of phrase from Robert Gibbs,” Harwood replied. “And he got some pushback at the press conference saying, ‘Well, boot on the throat sounds kind of hostile, right?’ And Robert's response was, ‘Well, I don't know what part of the country you come from, but that's a term of art that we would use. Would you like feet to the fire better?’ And I think ‘feet to the fire’ has a little bit different connotation.”

Kernen asked how the attack on BP was any different than the administration’s rhetoric against the health insurance providers in the heat of battle during the health care debate, along with that used against Wall Street in the the push for financial regulation reform.

“I recognize that some in the business community will make that argument,” Harwood said.

However, Kernen compared the Gibbs’ affront to BP with how Obama has portrayed the motivation of the wealthy to earn more, specifically comments made at a speech on April 28.

“The other thing that I liked most recently was that, ‘There comes a point where you've made enough money,’ which I like,” Kernen said. “Like, [Warren] Buffett should have stopped a long time ago because you know when you make money, you're actually taking it away in this zero-sum game from somebody else. You're not actually creating wealth. You never use it for any good with philanthropy and you never pay any taxes on it.”

And Kernen said this, along with the other attacks on private industry, are why the right is bothered by the Obama administration from time to time.

“So, you know – I would say $10 million is where I would cap anyone,” Kernen said. “Buffett has just – I don't know. I mean, that guy. That guy. Why is that not enough? I don’t – I mean we have to spread it around evenly. It's bad when people horde it for themselves. It’s just not good. Do I see the mind-set? There's something wrong here. And that is why the ‘boot on the throat’ slip and the ‘made enough money’ slip – that’s where the right sort of gets uncomfortable.”

And Harwood didn’t quite offer a defense for the Obama administration.

“I hear you, but my question is, Joe, you've already made way more money than you can ever spend,” Harwood said. “Why are you still working?”

Like this article? Then sign up for our newsletter, The Balance Sheet.