New York's Camelot Envy

Ego was at play, to be sure, in Mark Whitaker's pronouncement that "it's a grim time in New York... down here [in DC], there's a great sense of excitement." But power is shifting.

Whitaker, a former Newsweek editor, is now the capital bureau chief for NBC News, and New York's Observer dismissed his comments last night as yet another insecure declaration in Washington, DC's "ongoing inferiority complex."

But this time really is different, most obviously in the realm of finance, where influence has unmistakably shifted from the mostly midtown investment banking community known as "Wall Street" to Congress, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and ultimately the White House, who collectively decide, more regularly than anyone would have imagined just a few months ago, which banks thrive and which fail; which investments go south and which turn profitable.

The latest government interventions: $3 billion in additional government loans requested for Chrysler (owned by New York's Cerberus Capital Management) to merge with Fiat; an emergency capital injection of $20 billion for once-thought-healthy Bank of America; plans for a second bank bailout focused on credit cards, car loans and other non-real-estate debt; and a possible nationalization or rescue of Citigroup and/or B of A. That's since Saturday.

The inauguration only underscores the changes, focusing the nation's attention on glamorous, celebrity-soaked galas by night and, by day, star-studded ceremonies featuring an attractive, wildly popular First Family, presumed capable of such cultural feats from rescuing the fashion industry to setting children's toy trends.

Will the capital still look so radiant come Jan. 22? No. But between the young president, his chic wife, cute kids and hottie cabinet, the city should give Gotham a run for its money in the manufacture of the sorts of seductive urban myths — high living, upward mobility — that tend to fire up the young newcomer and enrich the tenured resident. An obnoxious HBO series should be coming down the pike any moment now.