White House challenges Cantor over anti-Wall Street ‘mob’

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The White House is criticizing House GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s description of Wall Street protesters as a “mob,” saying the activists compare favorably with the tea party movement.

“I don’t understand why, you know, one man’s mob is another man’s democracy,” presidential press secretary Jay Carney said Friday.

He added that he sees “a little hypocrisy unbound” in Mr. Cantor’s comments because the GOP leader previously has described tea party activists as democracy in action.

“I think that what we’re seeing on the streets of New York is an expression of democracy,” Mr. Carney said. “I think both are expressions that are totally consistent with the American democratic tradition.”

Mr. Cantor, in a speech to the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington Friday, said he was “increasingly concerned by the growing mobs” and criticized Democrats who are praising the protesters.

A coalition of students and their supporters from New York University and The New School chant "show me what democracy looks like" as they march towards Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan during the Occupy Wall Street protests on Oct. 5, 2011. (Associated Press)

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A coalition of students and their supporters from New York University and ... more >

“Some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans,” the Virginia Republican said.

The White House comments mark the second time in less that a week that they have targeted the Virginia Republican specifically. President Obama himself in a Monday night television interview chided the House majority leader for what Mr. Obama said were delays in considering his major new jobs bill.

Mr. Obama said in a news conference Thursday the protests in New York and other cities express the frustrations many Americans feel about the financial crisis and resistance by the banking industry and Republican lawmakers to greater regulation.

“You’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place,” Mr. Obama said. “The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”

He blamed Republicans for opposing Richard Cordray, his nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that will oversee banking practices.

“Republicans have threatened not to confirm him not because of anything he’s done, but because they want to roll back the whole notion of having a consumer watchdog,” Mr. Obama said. “You’ve got Republican presidential candidates whose main economic policy proposals is we’ll get rid of the financial reforms that are designed to prevent the abuses that got us into this mess in the first place.”

The Senate Banking Committee voted along party lines Thursday to approve Mr. Cordray’s nomination, but Republicans have vowed to block the appointment unless structural changes are made to the new agency to allow more congressional oversight of its budget and operations.

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