The banker’s president

Who would have thought Obama would turn out to be as wholly owned as John McCain?

President Obama dearly wants to seal a deal in which the nation’s largest banks toss over a few bales of cash — $20 billion to help with foreclosure relief — and the state attorneys general agree not to pursue sprawling and explosive legal cases against the banks.

Mr. Schneiderman and Attorney General Beau Biden of Delaware, joined by a few others, say no. Banks, they say, should disgorge more documents, testify more precisely and prove more completely that they own millions of mortgage notes. These rebel attorneys general want the banks to hand over more than $200 billion, which would enable the government to write down tens of millions of mortgages.

But in the end, their argument is elemental: Wouldn’t the nation benefit from knowing the truth about the behavior of banks and bankers?…

[T]he Obama administration has Shaun Donovan, secretary of housing and urban development; the economic adviser Gene Sperling; and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. dialing liberals, activists and bloggers, urging them to pressure the rebellious attorneys general to forgo emotionally satisfying inquiries and take the deal.

Take the deal? It’s absurd on its face. Notice how desperate the banks are to close the doors on their past actions. Anytime someone is delighted to pay a $20 billion fine, you have to ask yourself what they are so eager to put behind them. It’s not just mark-to-market or Europe that will cause them to implode, it’s also their criminal activity. This combination of factors means that the big banks are eventually going to go down sooner or later, the only significant question is which blow will prove to be the lethal one.

It’s fascinating to see this perspective being presented in the New York Times, of all places.