Speaking at a press conference Oct. 6, 2011, to urge Congress to pass his jobs bill, President Barack Obama weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street movement, saying the protests express the frustrations of the American people.
"We had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country ... and yet you're still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place," the president told reporters. "The protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration with how our finance sector works ... The American people understand that not everybody's been following the rules."
In an interview with ABC on Oct. 18, Obama said the Occupy Wall Street protests aren't that different than some Tea Party protests.
"Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government," said the president. "They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them."
Speaking to small crowd at a retirement community in Florida on Oct. 4, 2011, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed an unsympathetic view of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "I think it's dangerous, this class warfare," he said. Romney declined to comment further when asked about the protests by ABC. His response? "I'm just trying to get myself to occupy the White House."
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire Oct. 10, Romney was a bit more sympathetic. "I worry about the 99 percent in America," he said, later adding, "I understand how those people feel."
One-time GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has taken a very hard stance on the Occupy Wall Street protests. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal , the former businessman suggested the protests were driven by "anti-capitalism."
"Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!" Cain said. "It is not a person's fault if they succeeded, it is a person's fault if they failed." He suggested the demonstrations were planned "to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration."
Cain later continued his criticism, calling the protests "un-American." The Associated Press reported, "Cain said the protesters shouldn't rally against Wall Street bankers or brokers because 'they're the ones who create the jobs.'"
On CBS' "Face the Nation" Oct. 9, 2011, Cain stepped up his criticism even further, calling protesters "jealous" Americans who "play the victim card" and want to take "somebody else's Cadillac."
While Cain was speaking to a crowd in Arkansas on Oct. 27, more than a dozen Occupy protesters gathered outside the event. Cain fired back, telling the protesters to "go home and get a job and a life."
Buddy Roemer, a lesser-known Republican presidential candidate who was kept out of the GOP debates and largely out of the media, was the first candidate to fully support the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Roemer's support is in keeping with his political views, particularly on campaign-finance reform, where he opposes donations from "big money," Wall Street or special interests.
Roemer's campaign released a statement of support on Oct. 5, 2011:
Please know that I stand by you ... It is Main Street that creates the majority of jobs in America; it is Main Street that sends our brave young men and women to war; it is Main Street that hurts when another manufacturing plant closes only to be re-opened in China; it is Main Street that is being foreclosed on; and it is Main Street that is suffering while the greed of Wall Street continues to hurt our middle-class ... Wall Street grew to be a source of capital for growing companies. It has become something else: A facilitator for greed and for the selling of American jobs. Enough already.
Roemer later announced via Twitter that he planned to actually join the protest, on Oct. 11 in New York. The candidate tweeted: "I am concerned and outraged, as are many, at Wall Street greed. I will be joining Occupy Wall Street NYC Tuesday to see it firsthand. #ows
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, a long-time critic of the Federal Reserve, indicated support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters early in the movement, after a town hall-style meeting Sept. 30, 2011, in New Hampshire. "If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed -- I would say, good!" Paul told Reason magazine.
Paul later elaborated on his stance. Speaking to the National Press Club on Oct. 5, he called the protests a "legitimate effort."
"I can't speak for the people out there because I don't know who they are or exactly what they are demonstrating against," Paul said. "I can argue the case for their right to express their outright frustration with what's going on."
The Republican hopeful referred to his writings on economic policy over the last several years.
"I think that civil disobedience, if everybody knows exactly what they are doing, is a legitimate effort. It's been done in this country for many grievances."
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street movement on Oct. 9, 2011, after having gone by one of the protests in Washington, D.C., a few days before. Appearing on CNN, she suggested the demonstrators should be targeting the president, not Wall Street.
"I don't know how spontaneous these protests were, but it seems to be that their anger should be directed at the White House. Because Barack Obama's policies have put us in one of the worst tailspins, economically, that we have," Bachmann said. "And maybe that's why the protest that I saw was within shouting distance of the White House."
Speaking in San Francisco late-October, Bachmann slammed the protesters further, calling the movement "tremendously counterproductive." HuffPost's Aaron Sankin and Robin Wilkey report:
The Republican presidential hopeful noted with disgust a recent poll that stated 98 percent of Occupy Wall Street protesters believed in civil disobedience. When moderator Dan Ashley mentioned that the original Tea Party -- a group that Bachmann is affiliated with -- encouraged civil disobedience, Bachmann replied, "At least the Tea Party picks up their own trash."
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, appearing on CBS on Oct. 9, 2011, with fellow contender Herman Cain, argued the Occupy Wall Street protests were "a natural product of Obama's class warfare."
Gingrich said there's been a strain of hostility toward free enterprise, and even traditional America, that starts with academic institutions. "I regard the Wall Street protest as a natural outcome of a bad education system, teaching them really dumb ideas."
During the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire Oct. 12, Gingrich said the Wall Street protesters and the American public have a right to be angry:
I think the people who are protesting in Wall Street break into two groups: one is left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic, and the other is sincere middle-class people who frankly are very close to the Tea Party people who care. And actually...you can tell which are which. The people who are decent, responsible citizens pick up after themselves. The people who are just out there as activists trash the place and walk off and are proud of having trashed it, so let's draw that distinction.
The former House Speaker suggested people should direct that anger not toward Wall Street but toward government officials. Gingrich asserted that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke should be fired, and the top Democrats behind the Wall Street reform legislation -- Rep. Barney Frank and former Sen. Chris Dodd -- should be jailed.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum stood behind the Occupy Wall Street movement in October 2011, telling The Huffington Post that "you create a moral hazard in the future when you allow people who did things that are clearly illegal and immoral to get away with it and be compensated richly for it."
Santorum said he understands the frustration of the Wall Street protesters, even comparing it to the anger from Tea Party members. Yet, he says the solutions to the economy that the two groups would offer are different.
I think the solution that the Occupy Wall Street folks would have is much more intrusive government involvement where I think the Tea Party would say, "No, the answer is, the problem was intrusiveness and the fact that the government didn't regulate in the proper way and in fact, had regulations that allowed things like this to happen."
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman took a more supportive view on the Occupy Wall Street protests than many of the other Republican contenders.
"The same angst and anger that gave rise to the tea party movement, the same angst and anger that gave rise when I was much younger to an anti-war movement in the late 60s" is behind the protests, Huntsman said after a town hall meeting Oct. 9, 2011. "I think every generation, you have issues that compel people to stand up and who want to try to find solutions."
Huntsman commented on the movements again two days later while speaking on NPR's "On Point."
"I have to say that some of what they're talking about, lot of Americans, I think, are sympathetic with," he said. "Trillions and trillions of dollars spent, with nothing to show for it in terms of any uplift in our economy."
Huntsman told The Huffington Post after a talk in New Hampshire Oct. 11, "There is angst and there is anger and there is frustration in large measure because of the trillions that was spent to little effect. There is a lot out there that people on all ends of politics are very angry and concerned about."
Vice President Joe Biden's initial take on the Occupy Wall Street protests came in the form of a confused response on a local Florida radio station on Oct. 4, 2011. When asked to weigh in on the movement in conjunction with his views on the Tea Party, Biden said, "Well, you know look, I really don't know about the Van Jones group except what I read in the press. ... I think the Tea Party and the Van Jones folks are different halves of the same concern."
(Jones, the former "Green Czar" for the Obama administration, launched Rebuild the Dream along with MoveOn.org -- a campaign designed to counteract the Tea Party's Contract for the American Dream.)
Biden continued, "There's an overwhelming frustration. There's a great frustration here in America that the two parties haven't been able to get very much moving. We have been in this period where there's just nothing, but fighting."
Two days later at the Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., NBC's David Gregory asked the vice president if he stands in solidarity with the protesters.
Biden responded, "Look, that's a really fair question. Let's be honest with one another. What is the core of that protest? The core is: The bargain has been breached. The core is, the American people do not think the system is fair, or on the level. That is the core is what you're seeing with Wall Street. Look, there's a lot in common with the Tea Party. The Tea Party started, why? TARP. They thought it was unfair."
An announcement from Bank of America that it would be charging customers a $5 monthly fee to use its debit cards furthered protesters' anger. Biden said he can't blame people for feeling "frustrated" and criticized the bank's fees as the type of "tone deaf" move that the public is angry about, HuffPost Amanda Terkel reports.
Speaking at Chicago Ideas Week Oct. 11, 2011, former President Bill Clinton expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and compared the protests to the Arab Spring.
"The Occupy Wall Street crowd basically is saying, 'I'm unemployed and the people that caused this have their jobs again and their bonuses again and their incomes are high again. There's something wrong with this country. This is not working for me,'" Clinton said, according to the Chicago Tribune. He said the movement could inspire a positive debate.
The following day Clinton appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and addressed the topic again, stressing "you need to be for something, not just against something."
That's part of being an American, to be able to organize with people that you agree with in trying to make your voice heard. But to make the change, eventually what it is you're advocating has to be clear enough and focused enough that either there's a new political movement which embraces it or people in one of the two parties embraces it.
At a Chicago Ideas Week event Oct. 10, 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the Occupy Wall Street movement was "understandable," but that he didn't agree with the movement's solutions.
"Not that their solutions are solutions that I agree with .. but there's a major economic restructure going on .. where the middle class are feeling an angst they've never felt," said Emanuel.
Days earlier on NBC's "Meet The Press" the Chicago mayor took a more sympathetic tone: "If you can't hear the public's frustration not just what's happening on Wall Street but happening in the neighborhoods of Chicago, if you can't hear it, that means you don't understand your role in public service."
Former Vice President Al Gore has thrown his support behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. Gore endorsed the movement on his blog Oct. 12, 2011, with this statement:
From the economy to the climate crisis our leaders have pursued solutions that are not solving our problems, instead they propose policies that accomplish little. With democracy in crisis a true grassroots movement pointing out the flaws in our system is the first step in the right direction. Count me among those supporting and cheering on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
House Majority leader Eric Cantor's initial comments on the Occupy Wall Street protestors, made in a speech at the Values Voter Summit Oct. 7, 2011, referred to the demonstrators as "growing mobs" that were "pitting Americans against Americans."
"This administration's failed policies have resulted in an assault on many of our nation's bedrock principles. If you read the newspapers today, I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country," Cantor said.
Days later, the majority leader backpedaled from his "mob" comment and took on a slightly softer tone, saying he understands protesters' frustration.
"People are upset, and they're justifiably frustrated. They're out of work. The economy is not moving. Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid and I get it," said Cantor, reported The Washington Post. "What I was attempting to say is that the actions and statements that elected leaders in this town condoning the pitting of Americans against Americans is not very helpful."
Cantor also said the Wall Street protests are divisive in many ways the Tea Party protests were not:
The tea party were individuals that were ... seeking redress of their grievances from the government that they had elected. And they're different from what I see of the protesters on Wall Street and elsewhere that are, again, pitting themselves against others outside government in America. That's the difference.
On Oct. 16, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Cantor again moved away from his "mobs" comment, saying "More important than my use of the word is that there is a growing frustration out there across the country."
He criticized political leaders who have embraced the movement and said it was wrong to blame Wall Street for the country's economic problems, HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reported.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators at an Oct. 6, 2011, press conference. "God bless them, for their spontaneity. It's independent ... it's young, and it's focused. And it's going to be effective," she said. "The message of the protesters is a message for the establishment everyplace. No longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street."
In an Oct. 9 interview on ABC's "This Week," Pelosi continued to show her solidarity.
"I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen. We cannot continue in a way this is not relevant to their lives."
Speaking at the Democratic leader's weekly press conference Oct. 13, Pelosi was asked whether the demonstrators blamed Democrats just as much as Republicans. The minority leader responded, "It's very hard to explain to Wall Street protesters that you need 60 votes in the Senate."
Sen. John McCain weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street protests on Oct. 12, 2011, telling reporters "It's disgraceful that we took care of the financial institutions, and we did nothing about the housing crisis. So I understand their frustration."
Politico reports he later added that he may be the only Republican who does.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the Occupy Wall Street protests a few weeks after they first began, on a local radio show Sept. 30, 2011.
"The protesters are protesting against people who make $40-50,000 a year and are struggling to make ends meet. That's the bottom line," Bloomberg said. "We need the banks; if the banks don't go out and make loans we will not come out of our economy problems, we will not have jobs. And so anything we can do to responsibly help the banks do that, encourage them to do that is what we need ... we always tend to blame the wrong people. We blame the banks. They were part of it, but so were Freddie Mac and Frannie Mae and Congress." (Listen here.)
A week later the mayor again slammed protesters for "trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city."
Though the mayor has consistently stated the demonstrators have a right to protest, as long as they followed the law, Bloomberg has criticized the protests' effect on the city, if somewhat confusedly. He said the demonstrations were bad for tourism in New York City only to call them "a tourist attraction" two weeks later.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum Oct. 5, 2011, was asked if he felt any sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Geithner answered:
No, I feel a lot of sympathy for what you might describe as a general sense among Americans as to whether we've lost the sense of possibility -- and whether after a pretty bad lost decade ... followed by a devastating crisis [and a] huge loss of faith in public institutions, people do wonder whether we have the ability to do things that can help the average sense of opportunity in the country.
The following day, testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Geithner addressed the protests once again, saying he recognized Americans have a "deep sense of concern" about the economy, The Hill reports.
"We all need to do a better job of demonstrating that the responsible bodies in the United States, and for the economy today that requires Congress, are able to act to do more things to get the economy stronger today," the treasury secretary said.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, indicated some support for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, saying he "can't blame" them. During a hearing before the Joint Economic Committee, Bernanke said:
I would just say very generally, I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what's happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they're dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington.
Bernanke acknowledged income inequality in the U.S. but defended the Federal Reserve during a press conference Nov. 2, 2011. Via the LA Times:
I'm dissatisfied with the state of the economy. Unemployment is far too high. Inequality, which is not a new phenomenon, it's been going on -- increases in inequality have been going on for at least 30 years. But, obviously, that -- as that has continued we now have a more unequal society than we've had in the past.
So, again, I fully sympathize with the notion that the economy is not performing the way we would like it to be, and in that respect the concerns that people express across the spectrum are -- are understandable.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke out on Oct. 18, 2011, days after a 20,000-person Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City's Times Square. Christie said he sympathizes with the movement, but doesn't agree with protesters' solutions.
"What they're saying is 'The government's not working for me anymore, the government's not begin fair, the government is not helping me the way that they should," said Christie. "I understand why they're angry. Because you look down at what's happening in Washington, D.C., it should disgust all of us. You have a president who's unwilling to drag people to the same room and bang heads and force solutions. You have Congress in both parties who won't talk to each other."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), co-sponsor of the sweeping financial reform law known as Dodd-Frank, said that he respects where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are coming from, but also expressed frustration with the movement.
Appearing on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC Oct. 17, 2011, Frank said that in order to turn their anger into action, protesters need to become better organized politically. "I welcome the Wall Street energy," Frank said. "I don't agree with everything some of the people say. I agree with the general thrust of it. But it's not self-executing. It has to be translated into political activity if it's going to have the impact."
Rick Perry is one of the only Republican presidential candidates not to weigh in on the Occupy Wall Street movement. He even seemed to dodge the question on Fox Business Oct. 25, 2011. After Perry voiced his disapproval for bailing out Wall Street, host Neil Cavuto told him "you sound like one of those Occupy Wall Streeters," and waited for a response from the candidate. A long silence followed, and Cavuto moved on.
In mid-October 2011, presidential candidate Gary Johnson visited the Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park in New York City. The libertarian candidate later expressed solidarity with the movement. From Reason Magazine:
Last night I went to Occupy Wall Street. I wanted to see what was happening down there. It confirmed what I had thought. You got a lot of people outraged over the fact that we have a country that isn't all that fair. It starts with government granting favors, if you will to well-connected groups. And when I say government I mean politicians that grant favoritism to individuals, groups, and corporations that are well connected politically. When it comes to Wall Street, I don't know if there wasn't criminal prosecution because crimes weren't committed. The crimes were that favors were granted. Individuals and banks that made really poor decisions were not rewarded by becoming bankrupt and losing the money that they had. Instead they were bailed out. We paid the cost for that.
Corporatism exists in this country. it is real and alive. There is a real awareness [of this] right at the moment that makes change in this country ripe.
I have to express my solidarity with everyone [at Occupy Wall Street] that we have a country that doles it out unfairly. We bailed out banks that made horrific decisions. They should have been rewarded for those decisions by losing their money. We bailed them out at a cost of almost $1 trillion. I'm outraged by that.
In early October 2011, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were within their rights. "They have a right to protest, they have a right to their opinion, that's what makes a democracy work," he said. "And the frustration is felt all across this country."
But Cuomo became the target of that frustration when he refused to extend New York's popular "Millionaire Tax," which is set to expire at the end of this year.
Demonstrators rallied in New York City's Soho neighborhood to protest his refusal. Hundreds also rallied behind the governor's office in Albany. He later attempted to have them evicted.
Still, the governor continued to express respect for the Occupy movement. Speaking on former New York Gov. David Paterson's radio show, Cuomo said it wasn't too long ago that he himself was out there protesting, against the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
"Look: I believe in it. You believe in it. We've all done it. It's all across the country and I respect it," he said later, adding, "We also believe in the rule of law and we enforce the law."
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was an early supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the first member of Congress to visit the protests. The New York congressman went to Zuccotti Park in early October 2011 and, according to reports, was booed by demonstrators while giving a small speech. Rangel claims the booing was directed at someone else.
Rangel wrote an editorial on The Huffington Post titled "People Are Mad as Hell, Let's Help Them." Here's an excerpt:
When you see the hope for the middle class just dropping, squeezing and pushing people into poverty, we have a responsibility to take action. So yesterday morning I spoke on the House floor to encourage my colleagues in Congress and the spiritual community to join the Occupy Wall Street protesters to lend our moral support, amplify their message, and help them.
Rangel told the House of Representatives that the people have been let down, but that the issue is a moral one, not political:
It seems to me, we in the Congress are getting involved too politically and ignoring the main issues and the suffering that's taking place in this country today. When one of the parties is saying they won't entertain a bill that would put Americans back to work, when they say that their primary goal is to get rid of Obama, when they say that no jobs bill is going to be accepted except what they pick and choose, when they refuse to bring to the floor of this House something that we can discuss to give hope back to the people, I think that's not just a political question. I think it's a moral question as well.
Pat Buchanan painted a bleak picture for Occupy Wall Street protestors in late October 2011, predicting the movement would turn violent as winter approaches.
Buchanan said in a panel on "The McLaughlin Group" that "it's going to end very, very badly ... They're not going to be getting publicity and they're going to be acting up and acting badly like the worst of the demonstrators in the 60s," he said. "They're going to start fighting with the cops."
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) finally weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street protests Oct. 31, 2011, and echoed the sentiments of many other politicians, saying he understands the "frustrations" behind the movement but discourages any violation of the law.
"I lived through the riots of the Vietnam War ... and you can see how some of those activities got out of control. A lot of people lived through the race riots of 1968 that was clearly out of control, and I'm hopeful that these demonstrations will continue to be peaceful," Boehner said in a speech at the University of Louisville.
A few Occupy protests have targeted the speaker specifically. About 40 people protested Boehner's golf game in California, and Occupy Chattanooga members protested his appearance at a fundraiser.
Sarah Palin slammed Occupy Wall Street protesters Nov. 4, 2011, accusing them of thinking they're entitled to a government bailout.
"They say, 'Wall Street fat cats got a bailout so now I want one too,'" said Palin. "The American dream, our foundation, is about work ethic and empowerment, not entitlement."
After criticizing demonstrators for wanting the very thing they oppose, Palin offered some advice:
My question to the Occupy Wall street crowd is, `Where have you been the last three years?' I suggest if they want to vent and want to change the situation, then they vent in the right direction. They need to hop on a bus and travel south - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where there's plenty of space to occupy.
Voices from the Oct. 5, 2011, Occupy Wall Street march from Zuccotti Park to Foley Square in New York City's financial district.