Elizabeth Warren - Obama Stretching a Triple Into a Single

Today's Friday Afternoon News Dump from the White House was the official announcement by President Obama that Elizabeth Warren would not be appointed to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Instead, Warren was appointed as an assistant to the President and special adviser to Timothy Geithner (i.e. answer to both Rahm and Geithner instead of being an independent voice for consumers).

What this means for policy remains to be seen. Yves Smith lays out a strong case that this is the sidelining of Warren:

However, the end game seems obvious: keep her in orbit through mid-terms to prevent a hissy fit from her many fans, then name a more bank friendly permanent director (the argument no doubt being that her effectiveness is compromised by her not being confirmed, and with the odds high that the elections will put more Republicans in Senate seats, the Administration will argue its hands are tied).

While what this means from a policy standpoint remains to be seen, this is very clearly a total loss when it comes to the politics of the matter. Obama ducked a fight where the GOP would have had to defend Wall Street ripping off consumers, just before the election. This was a fight Democrats wanted -- Democrats needed -- yet Obama let the GOP off the hook. It was a squandered opportunity.

UPDATE: Quick thought exercise: In the 24 hours since the Friday afternoon announcement, in how many senate races has there been local media coverage on whether the GOP nominee supports Elizabeth Warren or defends allowing Wall Street to swindle consumers?

Unilateral Disarmament Has Destroyed the Democrats

President Obama spent the first two years of his administration practicing political unilateral disarmament. He laid down his arms to reach out to Republicans, and they ripped his arms off and clubbed him over the head with them.

This idea of playing patty-cakes with the Republicans is enormously naïve. When is this administration going to get it through their thick skulls that they will never work with you?!

Now, if attempts at bipartisanship had no downside, then of course I'd be in favor of it. As a theoretical matter, trying to reach out to the other side and reach consensus sounds lovely. But it does have a downside. You don't get to make your own case as you're playing nice with the other side. They're hammering you day in and day out, and you keep your powder dry. You know what that ends up in -- a massacre.

And that's exactly where we are now as the Democrats are looking to get slaughtered in 2010. Gallup says the Republicans have a historically large 10-point lead in generic Congressional matchups. The president has gone from a 68% approval rating to the low 40's. He's lost nearly 25% of the country in his approval rating. That's a disaster.

So, the president has fallen and he can't get up. But more importantly, he can't figure out why he fell. It's because you let the Republicans push you down and you never even fought back. You only have two months left -- take the f'in gloves off, Queensberry.

Here are how many people you will convince if you don't argue your side of the argument -- absolutely zero. Is the president aware that the Republicans are in the opposition party?

Now, it's almost too late for this election. Partly because it's hard to make that turn at this late juncture and because this is something you should have been doing all along so it's already in people's heads. But much more importantly, this isn't about how you campaign; this is about how you govern. He needs to govern with an agenda of change -- remember, that's what he originally campaigned on? He needs to implement his agenda, whatever the hell it is.

Let me be specific. The CBO just came out with great numbers on the stimulus package. They said that it created up to 3.3 million jobs and added 1.7 to 4.5% to the GDP in the last quarter alone. How many Democrats have you heard talking about that? I haven't heard any. Why?

Because they're scared of their own shadow. Fox News beat them up on the stimulus package and a poll came out saying people are unsure whether it worked -- and that was enough to send the Democrats scrambling. Hey, you know that you might win on that issue -- if you actually fought!

I'm not convinced that a second stimulus is the way to go. It would depend on what they spent the money on. But if the president is convinced that we should try it, then he should convince us. If he doesn't have the courage of his convictions, how the hell are we supposed to believe in them?

They should brag about what they got right, but it's even more important to lead in the right direction from now on so we can have a reason to get excited about you. If I was the president, I'd nominate Elizabeth Warren, tell the big banks that there's a new sheriff in town and if they don't like it, they can eat dirt. Every poll in the country says the American people can't stand Wall Street -- and they're right.

This isn't about senseless populism. The big banks did rob us blind through the bailouts (AIG still owes us $178 billion that got funneled to the banks on Wall Street) and they continue to do so with nearly zero percent interest rates (and no lending to businesses in the meanwhile). Is the president going to do anything about it? Of course, not. Because that would make some people mad, and Obama hates that. This is the downside of No Drama Obama. A fight has drama, and a fight is what we need now. Punch them in the mouth. Leave a mark.

If the Democrats keep rolling over and being polite to Republicans because Obama wants to chase the myth of bipartisanship, his four years in office will be a colossal disaster. Here's what happens when you lay down your arms in any competitive arena, you get your head removed. Pick your arms up, and throw a goddamned punch.

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

 

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Two recent news items highlight the need for this bureau and for a strong person to lead it. One is an account of attempts to stop payment on a check. The bank imposes a $30 fee and then $30 each subsequent six-month period to keep it in effect. The other report shows how some insurance make survivors under military policies believe that they are getting the money while the insurer keeps the funds and earns a good return on it.

So let's get the agency started with the best person to lead it, Elizabeth Warren. Filibuster threat? Obama should make them try. The charge that she is an activist? Exactly what we need - an activist working on the side of consumers.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

 

Quick Hits

Here are some other stories making the rounds today:

As I reported last week the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was looking at altering how it awards its Electors. Today, the Massachusetts Legislature approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote. The full story in the Boston Globe.

In the wake of the largest leak of military-related documentation in history, the Congress approved funding for the wars in South & Central Asia. To his credit House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, who had managed the $59 billion war funding bill, voted no in a final protest and helped to take another 101 Democrats with him but the bill still passed by a 308 to 114 margin. Twelve Republicans voted against the measure. As Politico reports "the scene was in stark contrast with just a year ago when but all but 32 Democrats supported a still larger $105.9 billion war funding measure for Afghanistan and Iraq operations." Still, the Obama Administration officials said the outcome showed that the classified leak had not jeopardized congressional support for the war and noted that the Senate had passed the money with no objection. The New York Times has more on the story.

The financial editor of The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes on how British bankers are buying up rare copies of an obscure book on the mechanics of Weimar inflation published in 1974 looking for clues on financial behaviour and the velocity of money. The great fear is really a deflationary asset spiral but these are preceded by inflationary spikes.

Over at The New Republic, Noam Scheiber does the calculus and finds that it points to the confirmation of Elizabeth Warren as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yesterday, Matt Yglesias argued that nominating Elizabeth Warren would go a long way to breaching the gulf between many progressives and the Obama Administration.

Hail the size of golf balls fell across parts of South Dakota today. Pictures from the NOAA.

The Obama Race to the Top education program continues to move forward. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were today named as finalists on Tuesday in the second round of a national competition for $3.4 billion in federal financing to support an overhaul of education policies. More from the New York Times.

Cigarette sales in California continue to plummet reports the Los Angeles Times. Californians bought 8.1% fewer cigarettes in fiscal 2009 — which ended June 30 — than in fiscal 2008.

"The List" of Journolist Participants is Fake

There is now a list going around in conservative websites purporting to be "The List" of media participants in Journolist. It's fake. How do I know? I'm on The List. And I was never on Journolist.

Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have been on Journolist. It sounds fun. I'd like being on The List even more. That sounds bad ass. Someone I know was on Nixon's Enemies List - I've always thought that was the single coolest distinction anyone could have. This is as close as I got. As much as I would have loved it, I shouldn't be on The List.

Why do I make this painful admission? Is it because I don't want to be associated with those no good libs secretly controlling the media? Hell no. Would have loved that, too. It's because you should know that people that are on that so-called "confirmed" list were not necessarily on Journolist. As usual, the conservative media seems to have completely made this up. Seen this movie before?

I guess I should consider it a compliment that I was on the made up list. In other words, someone thought if there is going to be a liberal media conspiracy I was probably involved. That's pretty cool. But I have a more important question about this purported scandal.

The conservative critics claim this proves the media is all a liberal conspiracy. And as part of the proof, they show e-mails from Journolist trying to sway the media to cover things with a liberal slant. But if the media is already liberal why do the liberals have to convince them?

Some of the e-mails seem to show people strategizing over how to swing the narrative in the press. Well, if it's a conspiracy, why don't they just call up the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, etc. and just get them to run their liberal buddies' ideas as facts? Why do they have to try so hard to figure out a way to influence them through their own articles?

Wouldn't this prove the opposite - that the mainstream media is not liberal? They hardly ever listen to these self-avowed liberal journalists. The people on this mailer seem to be on the outside looking in, trying to figure out how the influence the conversation (presumably the same exact thing conservative journalists and advocates are doing).

In fact, in one of the first stories that The Daily Caller ran, they share e-mails from the list about anger toward George Stephanopoulos for asking about Rev. Wright during the 2008 debates. Well, if they run the media, why didn't the liberals just get George not to ask that question? Why did the so-called liberal media ask such a conservative question in the first place? If it's a conspiracy why won't Stephanopoulos listen to them?

In other words, why won't the liberal media listen to the liberal media?

Now, for the extra irony - one of the other questions Stephanopoulos asked in that same debate was planted by ... Sean Hannity. Stephanopoulos was on Hannity's show when pressed about Obama's connection to Bill Ayers and decided that he would ask it in the debate. So, is there then a conservative media conspiracy?

Of course, the reality is that the media has many forms. There are straight news reporters and there are advocate journalists, like some people on Journolist and almost everyone at Fox News (I had to say "almost" because of Shep Smith, damn him for making things complicated).

Of course, many of the people on Journolist freely admit that they write for liberal publications like The Nation, whereas Fox News claims to do fair and balanced reporting. So, they're both advocates, just one side is lying about it (I'm always amused by this lie; how can anyone say with a straight face that Fox News doesn't have a conservative perspective?).

Finally, let me ask you one more question. If the liberal media is so strong how come all of the liberals in the country don't have as much influence as just Glenn Beck? That's really painful to write, but clearly true.

Here's my proof. Every progressive organization, leader, advocate, journalist, congressmen, etc. have said that Elizabeth Warren should be nominated as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet, they still can't get the job done. It is at best a 50-50 proposition right now. Yet, just the thought that Shirley Sherrod might be on Glenn Beck's show on one night is enough to get her fired.

The mere threat of Beck swings the Obama administration immediately. That's power. That's influence. All of the progressives and liberals in the country put together can barely move the president on Warren. And this is supposed to be a liberal president with a liberal media? What an unbelievable joke.

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