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Jon Kyl, Economic Hitman

There's a rather extraordinary passage in today's Times piece on the banking industry's success at killing legislation that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages:  

The industry’s worst fears began to come true in early January when Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he had persuaded Citigroup to endorse the idea. Mr. Schumer had held discussions with Vikram S. Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, and Lewis B. Kaden, a vice chairman. Mr. Schumer then spoke to other top executives, including Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, hoping to peel more big banks away from the opposition.  ... 

While Mr. Durbin had trouble rounding up Democratic votes, Republican leaders kept their members — and potential renegade banks — in line.

Senator Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican leading the charge against the bankruptcy change, told bankers there would be consequences if they dealt with the Democrats. According to an April 20 e-mail message between industry officials in touch with Mr. Kyl, he told them “not to make a deal with Durbin and then come looking to Republicans when they need help on something like regulatory restructuring.”

This is downright remarkable. Here you have the banking industry on the verge of making important concessions, and Kyl, who so far as I know wasn't personally going to lose money if bankruptcy judges started modifying mortgages, threatening the bankers against doing so.

I'm groping for an analogy and the best I can do is imagine a hitman who's been hired by some wealthy gangster-type. The gangster asks the hitman to knock off a local judge who's been stepping on his illicit business activities. When the hitman calls to tell the gangster he has the judge in his sights, the gangster has a change of heart and decides it's not worth the messiness. At which point the hitman gets angry and threatens to kill the gangster unless he bucks up and sees the hit through.

You kind of assume most hitmen are Sopranos-style sociopaths--they don't mind killing, but they're not necessarily bent on it. But this hitman is different. He's genuinely evil.

--Noam Scheiber