Excluded from invitation list for Obama's signing of Wall Street reform: Wall Street titans

By Michael D. Shear
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; 11:22 AM

When President Obama steps Wednesday onto the stage at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to sign Wall Street reform into law, many of the titans of Wall Street will be absent.

Among those who did not receive an invitation to be among the 400 people at the 11:30 a.m. bill signing: Morgan Stanley's James Gorman, Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein, Wells Fargo's John G. Stumpf and -- somewhat surprisingly -- J.P. Morgan Chase's Jamie Dimon.

Dimon, of course, was an Obama confidant of sorts during the president's first year in office and was one of the most frequent guests in the West Wing, according to White House visitor logs.

But, as with the others, Dimon actively spoke out against the president's legislation, breaking with the White House and arguing that his reform plan was bad for the banks and the economy. Friend or no, that was enough to leave the mailbox empty this week.

"If you were part of an effort to spend millions of dollars opposing the legislation, you were not at the top of our list for an invitation," deadpanned Jen Psaki, the deputy communications director for the White House.

Psaki explained that the snub is nothing personal, and not part of an orchestrated message the West Wing is trying to send to Wall Street. Rather, she said, it is a recognition that the 400 seats at what she dubbed a "celebration" should be reserved for those who worked hard to make the moment possible.

She noted that Vikram Pandit, the chief executive of Citigroup, was invited and will be attending, as will Cam Fine, the chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Both worked with the White House to support passage of financial regulation changes over the objections of the Republicans in Congress.

In truth, though, the president's advisers are well aware that high-profile bill signings are often closely watched events. And the message they want to send over the next three months is decidedly not one of coziness with bank executives.

(Obama turns away from N.Y. Democratic donors)

White House aides said the president will focus his remarks Wednesday on the easier-to-understand parts of the legislation that benefit consumers: new rules for bank charges, mortgage forms and rate hikes. Obama will highlight the stories of several "average" Americans, including Andrew Giordano, a retired Vietnam veteran from the Baltimore neighborhood of Locust Point, who was inundated with overdraft fees from his bank because he was enrolled in an "overdraft protection" program for which he had not applied.

Also at the ceremony will be Robin Fox, a seventh grade teacher from Rome, Ga., who saw her interest rate on a credit card balance nearly double even though she paid her bills on time.

Obama will cite Giordano's and Fox's experiences, among others, in his speech, an advance copy of which was provided to reporters Wednesday morning.

"These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history," Obama will say, according to the excerpt. "And these protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people -- not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses -- in the financial system. Now, that's not just good for consumers; that's good for the economy."

The speech, aides say, will be a preview of the campaign message Obama will carry to communities during the summer and fall.

"The president will talk about what this means, and how it impacts people through the stories of individuals," Psaki said. "This is something we pushed for. This is something Democrats are responsible for. Republicans wanted to stay with the old set of rules."

That message is probably not one that the uninvited bank chief executives are particularly eager to sit through anyway. And, in fact, there's no indication that any of them are angry that the White House did not include them.

"The administration has always been generous in inviting me to meetings, speeches and bill signings," said Edward Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association -- one of those not invited.

"I think it is entirely appropriate not to invite me to this signing, since ABA consistently opposed this bill," he said. "At the same time we are supporting pending administration legislation on small business in the Senate."

What to give the (British) guy who has everything

President Obama has given some pretty hip gifts in the past, including an iPod for the Queen of England. And when the Russian president arrived for a visit the other day, Obama took him for a typical American lunch at a burger joint.

So it's always interesting when the greeting of a foreign leader offers a glimpse of the Obamas' kind of hospitality.

For British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama picked out a framed and signed color lithograph titled "Column with Speed Lines," by Ed Ruscha. (From a White House official: Born in 1937 in Omaha, Ruscha is one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century Pop art movement.)

For Samantha Cameron, the prime minister's pregnant wife, Michelle Obama offered a gift basket, including a baby blanket.

And gifts for the children of the British leaders -- Nancy and Elwen -- included a silver charm necklace, featuring eight White House charms, for Nancy and a custom D.C. United soccer jersey for Elwen.

Staying home, for now

It appears the presidential wanderlust that has taken Obama out of town just about every week for months might abate for at least a little while. There is no presidential trip planned for this week.

In addition to the bill signing, Wednesday's schedule includes a meeting with House members and a briefing in the Situation Room on the BP oil spill.

But the schedule has no indication of a trip to tout an electric battery plant or any other part of the controversial Recovery Act, something he's done every week for at least the last month.

But aides suggest the travel will return soon. He has pledged to go back to the Gulf of Mexico for another visit in the next few weeks. And he's due to head to Martha's Vineyard for a week-long vacation in August.

In between, there will surely be more trips aimed at focusing on the economic recovery. And maybe more than a few fundraisers, too.

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