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White House Criticizes Credit Downgrade

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The Obama White House was very unhappy, and very open about its unhappiness, with this decision. It tried to forestall it, but S went forward anyway. What now for the Obama administration?

ROBERTS: But what's got both parties really kind of irritated is that S did make a political judgment rather than a straight economic one. And they don't like the idea that apparently, these credit raters are deciding the French political system is more likely to work than the U.S. one.

MONTAGNE: Well, what about that? I mean, even S said yes, it was really a lot about the politics of this country. I mean, what - how does that fit?

ROBERTS: And then overnight, Renee, we had news that former Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield had died. And it reminded us of how few lawmakers like him are around now, who could do a deal like that. But having said that, there's still a lot of upset here, that S is engaging in what amounts to political punditry and can affect the U.S. economy with its punditry. And there's not a huge sense that they're calling it straight. Some sense that they're making political judgments for political reasons.

MONTAGNE: Well, if in fact it's a bit of that, or much of that, if there's a partisan political agenda, is it that S execs are doing this to harm President Obama?

ROBERTS: The truth is, it was a congressional coal-raking as well. The Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, in a totally bipartisan report on the economic crisis earlier this year, repeatedly blamed S and the other ratings agencies for being, quote, the single biggest triggers to the economic meltdown.

MONTAGNE: The government shouldn't pay attention to these ratings agencies.

MONTAGNE: Well, though intended or not, what political effect do you think this downgrade will have on the president?

ROBERTS: Oh, it - I think it could be very devastating for him. Time magazine has George Washington with a black eye. The Republican presidential candidates get to say this is the first time in U.S. history that this has happened, and it's happened under this president. Unless he has a magic wand to turn the economy around, President Obama is in for a tough slug over the next year.

MONTAGNE: Thanks much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.