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Buttner and Panelist: Wall Street Loves Iraq War

Reported by Judy - November 25, 2006 -

Brenda Buttner and one of her panel members tried to pump up support for the Iraq war on "Bulls and Bears" on Saturday (November 25, 2006) by claiming that "the war in Iraq has actually been very popular with Wall Street" but their claims set off a revolt among the rest of the panel.

Buttner started her panel off with the question of "what Wall Street wants" regarding Iraq: Go big, go long, or go home. It was a silly question since Wall Street is the sum of millions of investors, all of whom do not agree. But silly questions are what you get when you watch Buttner.

Buttner's usual toady, Charles Payne of Wall Street Strategies, started things off by claiming Wall Street wants decisiveness (Guess he means we haven't been getting that from "the decider" so far) so the U.S. should go big and train the Iraqis so that the U.S. can get out sooner. (Yeah, I know what he said doesn't make sense, but that's Payne for you.)

Gary B. Smith, of Exemplar Capital, usually is a hawk on the war personally but he admitted that what Wall Street "really wants is for this whole thing to go away. Wall Street hates this conflict. Wall Street hates the fact that we’re spending millions and it’s so myopic and short term in thinking. They would like nothing better than for us to completely pull out and leave the Iraqis to their own devices and just concentrate on what’s going on on our own shores, which I agree with Charles, that’s the exact wrong thing to do, but that’s what Wall Street wants and if we did that, the market would soar, unfortunately."

Tobin Smith, of Changewave Research, continuing to show his developing independence from the Fox News line, disagreed with the "Go big" strategy. "Certainly the idea of adding 250,000 troops means we’re gong to go to a national draft, and going to a draft, you think people are nervous and upset about the war now, just wait until you start drafting kids to go to Iraq. If there were a rational plan and we saw some movement from Iraq, not waiting for us to do some of the work, I think Wall Street could get behind it. What they can’t get behind is just the answer that it just needs a trillion dollars and another 250,000 people. That sounds like a simplistic answer, but it’s not, they want to see a rational plan first. ... I say go right. Let them finish the job we started, but get the heck out."

All was pretty civil until this point, when Buttner claimed that "the war in Iraq has actually been very popular with Wall Street" and asked Scott Bleier of hybridinvestors.com to comment.

"I hate to say this. It might seem callous and it might be unpopular, but the day we went into Iraq started the bull market that we’re in now," said Bleier.

"And I think if we leave without testing some new stragtegy and going big and going long, I think the market will suffer for it. I can’t disagree more with Gary B. Smith. The market has loved the war. I don’t want to seem callous about this, but the numbers speak for themselves."

Pat Dorsey, of morningstar.com, brought economic thinking to bear on Buttner's silly question, as he usually does, noting that the economy also bottomed out at around the same point that the U.S. went into Iraq, adding, "So correlation is not causation, my friend." Someone could be heard laughing in the background. Dorsey said the effect on the stock market is probably a wash either way, as lower spending in Iraq would be offset by possible increased instability there.

"With all due respect to Pat, it’s not just a coincidence. It’s more than just a coincidence," insisted Bleier, offering no proof.

After Gary B. Smith agreed with Dorsey, the panel broke into a few seconds of uncontrolled, excited cross-talk. After Buttner regained control, she went back to her toady.

"You guys are shocking," fussed Payne, bringing out the old chestnut that "there hasn’t been a terrorst attack since we went over there."

In keeping with his emerging rebel status, Tobin Smith noted that the war on terror and the war in Iraq are two different things. "We’ve tried to sell it like it’s one thing, but it’s not," he said, as Dorsey could be heard in the background saying, "Hear, hear." As long as the oil is flowing from the Middle East, Smith, said, Wall Street will be happy.

At that point, I expected the screen to go blank as the panel had totally departed from John Moody's script of the day but it didn't. There was more to come, in fact.

Bleier again insisted that "Wall Street has actually liked this conflict."

"Then in order to get the Dow to 20,000 we should go in and invade Iran, and we should go in and invade North Korea," said Gary B. Smith. "It would be the greatest thing ever for our economy."

"Absolutely not," said Bleier, without explaining why his principle did not hold for two or three wars and not just one.

"Wars have always helped the stock market," chimed in Payne.

War certainly has helped corporate earnings in some areas --like those of Halliburton, CACI and others profiteering by overcharging the government for the work they are doing. Maybe that will come up in response to next week's silly Buttner question.