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Left Pushes Hard for Elizabeth Warren

Written by By Eleanor Clift, Newsweek   
Sunday, 25 July 2010 00:29
Prof. Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel set up to oversee the TARP program, 04/20/09. (photo: Tim Sloan)

Prof. Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel set up to oversee the TARP program, 04/20/09. (photo: Tim Sloan)



Will Obama let down liberals - and women - again? Inside the fight over Washington's new consumer-protection agency.

here's a 2.0 version of health care's public-option debate, and her name is Elizabeth Warren. She's the Harvard law professor who's been overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program and giving Treasury Department insiders heartburn over their excessive generosity to Wall Street bigwigs. Liberals are lobbying hard for Warren to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, warning the White House that failure to do so would rival the left's disappointment over President Obama's refusal to fight for a public option. Warren's backers consider her the Joan of Arc of the financial consumer movement.

Warren is the only woman under consideration, and the job should be hers if it weren't for some intramural friction that has taken on a gender cast. Her credentials are impeccable, underscored by her prescience in originating the idea for a consumer financial agency three years ago, well before the storm that would take down the markets and cost taxpayers trillions in wealth. Writing in a 2007 article in the journal Democracy, Warren challenged the rah-rah boom times, arguing that consumers are "effectively unprotected in a world in which a number of merchants of financial products have shown themselves very willing to take as much as they can by any means they can."

In her clear-eyed and earnest way, Warren has broken through in testimony on Capitol Hill and on television as a voice for the people, ticking off powerful business interests and irritating the boys' club that Obama has entrusted to steer the economy. If Obama chooses her to head the new consumer agency, she would have to be confirmed by the Senate and would likely provoke a partisan battle on the scale of a Supreme Court nomination. On Friday morning, three Republican senators warned the White House not to use a recess appointment to fill the new position. For Obama, it's a classic political choice: how much of a fight does he want or need going into the fall elections?

His base is telling him that Warren is what the left needs to believe in him again. Obama loves the woman; there have been articles written about how he sought her out, and how admiring he is of her. As the financial-reform legislation made its way through Congress, she was consistently named as the likely head of the first consumer-protection bureau. If Obama backs down now, he looks like he's afraid of a fight, which is not a good perception for a president who needs to burnish his leadership cred going into the November election. Warren is the voice of Main Street, and if the Republicans want to block her, Obama's attitude should be "Bring it on."

Warren has dared to challenge the captains of international finance, and she has rattled the protectors of Wall Street, many of them Republican and male, just the kind of opposition that Obama could use to drive women's turnout in November. Warren embodies his efforts to revive the economy and create jobs in a way that everything else he's done hasn't conveyed. Her persona as a champion for the people is so ingrained that Obama wins simply by having the fight. "The only question is whether Elizabeth Warren is Moses whose candidacy expires overlooking the Promised Land, or Joshua who gets to lead the troops," says Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton domestic policy adviser.

A decade ago, when Wall Street was riding high, Time dubbed the era's chieftains of finance - Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, and Larry Summers - "The Committee to Save the World." We learned later how their disdain for regulation and their faith in the markets was misplaced, and how one astute regulator, Brooksley Born, head of the obscure Commodities Futures Trading Commission, took on Greenspan et al. to argue for regulating those funny new financial instruments called derivatives that nobody understood, and how she was put down and marginalized and ultimately ignored. Former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt, in a Frontline documentary about Born's lonely and futile quest to sound the danger, recalled the disparity of power and how condescending the men were in thinking this was a woman you could "flick off with the back of your hand." Her warning unheeded, Born ultimately resigned, a case history of a missed opportunity that would have done more to save the economy, if not the world, than all the pooh-bahs who made Time's cover.

Warren has advanced further into the club than Born, and if she makes it, she would bolster Mary Shapiro at the SEC and Sheila Bair at the FDIC, who like Warren have been at odds with the Obama team. Gender is at play in these debates, as well it should be. With women controlling more discretionary spending in America than men do, it's far past time for better representation in the highest councils of power.


Eleanor Clift is also the author of "Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Politics" and "Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment." your social media marketing partner


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+44 # Guest 2010-07-24 20:22
About 40% through Obama's term, Elizabeth Warren represents the tipping point for the President. Will he continue to vacillate, cave/"compromis e" at the slightest opposition, or become a real leader and appoint Warren to help protect the American public against the banksters/hucks ters/thieves of the "free" market? Progressives are losing hope that Obama can do anything of significance. Is he an empty suit for the global corporations? Appoint Warren and fire Geithner and Summers.
+36 # Guest 2010-07-24 22:49
I concur completely with this article. Though I voted for Obama and have tried to understand his tentative handling of the Republicans in Congress, I will not vote for him again if he fails to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We need her strength of purpose in this position. She is the only candidate who truly cares about the middle class in America. The rest have too many ties to the financial companies that caused the decline of our economy. The CFPB is doomed to failure without her at the helm.
+3 # Guest 2010-07-25 19:47
I agree with you completely. I have heard Ms. Warren interviewed so many times and loved her immediately. We NEED her. There is no doubt. She is forthcoming and appears to only want what is best for this country. If anyone can stand up for what is appropriate, she can.
-4 # Guest 2010-07-26 09:12
Who are the other candidates for this position? How do you know that she is the only candidate who cares about the middle class. Is she part of the middle class or is she part of the Harvard/Stanfor d cabal?
+41 # Guest 2010-07-24 22:56
Dear President Obama

You have already reached out to meet the requirements of the banks and other financial institutions that have guided us into our current national crisis. Keeping Timothy Geithner was one of them. You do not need to make the concession to Wall Street that blocks the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to direct the CFPB.

Warren is smart, deeply informed, honest and energetic. No nuanced language ("Can she be confirmed?") can hide the fact that she is simply a target of opportunity for the banks demanding maximum elbow room to continue fleecing an unsuspecting and unprotected public. They want to win every fight.

The Warren appointment is both hugely symbolic and a substantively vital position in an era where ordinary folks will be hurting for a very long time.

This is not an intersection for ordinary political compromise.

Select Warren to direct the CFPB.

William R. Ellis, Jr.
+20 # Guest 2010-07-25 00:25
Amen, amen, amen to the above three articles. Thank you all for saying it better than I can.
President Obama, Appoint Warren!
+24 # Guest 2010-07-25 00:36
I agree with the above three comments. Of course confirmation will be tough. Recall Senator Durbin's "The banks own this place." Sometimes tough battles must be fought. There is more honor in losing than in not trying.
+25 # Guest 2010-07-25 00:57
Elizabeth Warren represents Obama's last chance to prevent an exodus of seriously disappointed progressives from the Democratic Party.
+20 # Guest 2010-07-25 01:27
I do not believe that Elizabeth Warren should be viewed as the candidate of the left or as the female candidate either. She is, however, the absolutely best choice for this position. I will not give the President an ultimatum, choose her, or I won't vote for you; but I would say that if you don't choose her, it becomes one more reason why you may be vulnerable in 2012.
+11 # bobpomeroy 2010-07-25 04:38
This is not an intersection for ordinary political compromise.
+19 # Guest 2010-07-25 05:00
Elizabeth Warren is the ONLY serious choice for "Regulator of Wall Street". If she is not appointed to that position, I'm going to have to re-evaluate my former assessments of Mr. Obama's motivations.
+16 # Guest 2010-07-25 05:14
Posting here is fine - but if you really want Dr. Elizabeth Warren to be appointed, then contact your Senators and Representatives and TELL them to ask President Obama to make this appointment - it will go a LOT further than merely posting herein.
+10 # Guest 2010-07-25 06:10
Ms. Warren is always the smartest person in the room. When she goes to another room. She is the smartest one in that room too.

She never talks down to anyone.
Looks straight into your eyes and lets others finish speaking before she starts.

That spells out confidence in the fact that she knows what the hell she is talking about.

I live in Oklahoma, and when the rest of the world sees our two Senators, Inhofe, Coburn speaking on camera it gives us Okies a bad rap.

We may not all be dumb. Right on Ms. Warren.
You go girl!!!!
+7 # Guest 2010-07-25 06:52
I concur wholeheartedly with MainStreetMento r. If you are reading this & agreeing with the appointment of Dr. Warren, contact your Congressional Representative and MOST DEFINITELY contact your Congressional Senator and let them know that you will work to support anyone who supports her, and that you will work to oppose anyone who opposes her appointment.
+6 # Guest 2010-07-25 06:54
You can find your House Representative at and your senator at
+1 # Guest 2010-07-25 08:40
I have recently moved. I seem to remember that there is an easy way to find my senators, representatives , and phone numbers. Can someone tell me what it is?
+6 # Guest 2010-07-25 11:07
Give us Libby, or give us Debt!
+6 # Guest 2010-07-25 11:34
Elizabeth Warren is absolutely the one for the job! This not the time for President Obama to back down.
+5 # Guest 2010-07-25 12:19
"Left Pushes Hard for Elizabeth Warren" ... which probably means that her candidature is doomed! In the interests of "bipartisanship " Obama will probably appoint Jamie Dimon.
+7 # Guest 2010-07-25 12:55
There is precious little chance that the GOP and Wall Street insiders will allow her to be appointed to the position. The fear is that she would not be a proponent of lip service and would actually do the job as as the law intends. She is also not a banker which indicates that she would not feel great compassion for bankers who are certain that getting along on a mere $500,000 a year is simply too difficult to endure.
+5 # Guest 2010-07-25 13:33
President Obama the Progressives put you in office start listening to what this country needs and wants, instead of your Wall street buddies. It seems like you are determined to be pushed into their compromise (Wall Street) and then out of office.
The Progressive and Green Party should combine like in the 60's and put on a real TEA PARTY, That will make these teabaggers have their tea bags shrink like they landed on dry ice.
-2 # Guest 2010-07-25 14:01
She has no chance.
A friend (a Clinton supporter) & I have a bet as to whom the POTUS will appoint.
He's betting another Wall Street bonus baby like OMB's Lew.
I'm betting someone who is challenging one of his sycophants.
Either way he'll make a stirring speech about how his enemy of the week prevented him from doing the right thing.
If I lose I have to wear a PUMA tee for a day.
(Don't tell him. I'm keeping it.)
+3 # Guest 2010-07-25 15:08
Warren!! Warren!! Warren!!
+3 # Guest 2010-07-25 15:44
Absolutely Undermining consumers by running from Warren would be the stooopidest thing he could do
0 # Guest 2010-07-25 15:56
While I am totally in favor of Ms Warren being appointed, I question the "tone" of this column. I worked in DC and have known the Extreme and Outrageous difficulties which exist there. So does Ms Clift. Considering the horrible DC atmosphere and vile attitudes existing, (worse than when I was there), Obama has accomplished "miracles". Health Care alone, regardless of its flaws, I never thought would make it. How quickly we abandon those who are trying for us.
+4 # Guest 2010-07-25 22:18
Elizabeth Warren understands what is happening in the financial world and she talks about it in terms that someone who is not a financial wizard understands. She would do an absolutely fantastic job. Even Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) likes her.
+6 # Guest 2010-07-25 23:15
Eleanor Clift is incisive and informative as usual.

There is some risk in labeling Elizabeth Warren a candidate of the Left. It is potentially a turn-off for a majority of voters. Many people who do not like or support "the Left" would support Elizabeth Warren if they were well-informed about her record as a people's advocate.

She is a terrific person and a terrific woman. However, I think the time to celebrate her sex ["gender"], if ever, is AFTER she has taken office. It is not a criterion for selecting the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

PS -- provides fairly easy email links to members of Congress.
+4 # Guest 2010-07-26 07:32
She's NOT a "candidate of the Left." She's a candidate for the fiscal well-being of this country. Unless and until more people like her are appointed and empowered, the Obama administration is doomed to re-create the kinds of economic messes left us by the Bush mis-administrat ion. Let's hope our cerebral President has the good sense this time NOT to listen to the Wall-Street lobbyists in his administration.
+1 # Guest 2010-07-26 10:43
Sadanzig- If you really want to get Elizabeth Warren nominated for the
Consumer protection, then I suggest you compose a letter & FAX it to the Whitehouse Fax # 202-456-2461

E-mails,Twitter,phonecalls etc. are just not a s effective !!!!!

Its my mehtod of attack !!!!
Read NY Times editorial on her in the Sunday
Week Review section(7/25) Editorial. It is a basis for your letter.

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