People on Wall Street are very familiar with the type of character assassination employed by William Cohan on Bloomberg. If someone plays by the book and threatens to expose your dishonesty, you say he, or she, is too "disagreeable" to work with.
"Who's making things up, really?" asked ABC News, which fact-checked the allegations lobbed by Patrick McHenry against Elizabeth Warren. The answer was unequivocal. McHenry's five key allegations had no basis in fact.
Watch McHenry's hearing on C-Span. You would have to be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid not to notice his rude and obnoxious behavior. When it comes to the old-fashioned rules of civility, there is no line that McHenry would not cross. Here's what he said about the husband of Terri Shiavo:
We're defending a woman who is being starved to death by a cruel husband, who has -- who I think should -- his legal rights should be taken away, because he obviously has a conflict with his common law wife and his two children he's had by that common law wife. And so, I think we have to step in as a Congress and say, we must defend those that simply cannot defend themselves.
During a debate over Republican ethics scandals, which included the indictment of Tom DeLay and his staff members, McHenry interrupted Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) to say he couldn't believe someone from New Jersey had the nerve to talk about ethics. As one of the most ethically compromised members of the House, with several skeletons in his closet, that took a lot of chutzpah.
Let's not overlook McHenry's accusation that Nancy Pelosi was behind the timing of the revelations pertaining to the Mark Foley sexual scandal. Here's how it went on CNN:
Wolf BLITZER: Do you have any evidence at all that Democrats or others might have been behind the timing of this scandal?
MCHENRY: Look, let’s be honest…
BLITZER: Do you have any evidence to back that charge up?
MCHENRY: No, no, actually, if the Democrats had any issue with saying this, putting all the facts out on the table, they would say, certainly, I’ll testify under oath that I had no involvement in it. They’ve said no.
BLITZER: Well, you don’t have any evidence, though, right?
MCHENRY: Well, look at the fact points.
BLITZER: Yes or no, do you have any evidence, Congressman?
MCHENRY: Do you have any evidence that they weren’t involved?
BLITZER: I’m just asking if you’re just throwing out an accusation or if you have any hard evidence.
MCHENRY: No. It’s a question, Wolf. The question remains, were they involved? And if they were not involved, they need to say clearly. And it’s a question. It’s not an accusation.
But McHenry was no more obnoxious and dishonest than Bloomberg's William Cohan, who deploys a form of character assassination well known by players on Wall Street. If you want to smear someone, simply say she's difficult to work with:
The inconvenient truth facing Elizabeth Warren, the controversial Harvard Law School professor President Obama would like to run the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is that she has made herself so bloody disagreeable on Capitol Hill that she has obliterated her chance of winning the Senate votes she needs to be confirmed.
Notice the sleazy rhetorical tricks. Whether or not Elizabeth Warren is disagreeable is a highly subjective matter, not "an inconvenient truth." Later on his piece, Cohan transcribes McHenry's accusations without skepticism and offers them up as the only evidence that Warren may be, "difficult." But Cohan seems unwilling to differentiate bias from substance. Check out this passage, designed to mislead Bloomberg readers:
This conflagration followed an already dicey conversation earlier in the hearing about whether Warren had “lied” -- McHenry’s word -- in recounting her role in advising the attorney general of Iowa about settling some mortgage-related lawsuits. Warren said she got involved at the request of Treasury secretary Tim Geithner; McHenry claimed she overstepped her mandate.
Cohan could not be bothered to do some real work, which involves fact checking. ABC's Susanna Kim did some real research and noted:
The Dodd-Frank Act requires that the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] oversee lending practices at all levels of government, including local and state. The Act created the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity under the CFPB which has the duty of "coordinating fair lending efforts of the Bureau with other Federal agencies and State regulators, as appropriate, to promote consistent, efficient, and effective enforcement of Federal fair lending laws.".
Everyone on Wall Street knows disreputable types like Cohan, who use "being disagreeable" as a codeword to sabotage anyone who seems unwilling to play ball with the rest of the boys. Cohan and McHenry are like Chris Ricciardi, the CDO Svengali who destroyed Merrill Lynch, saw to it that the "difficult" analysts at Moody's were blackballed off of his deals.
Cohan's and McHenry's agenda is to thwart Warren's efforts to facilitate an orderly and transparent workout of bad mortgage loans that continue to threaten our financial and legal systems, which cannot possibly litigate all the fraudulent transfers embedded in trillions of dollars of mortgage debt. But Cohan isn't interested in making points about substance or real issues. Like The New Republic, which inflated a dustup over a Facebook page into "the cult of Elizabeth Warren," he relies on bitchy insinuation.
"Elizabeth Warren Is Smeared, and the Press Is Along for the Ride," wrote Ryan Chittum in The Audit. But even among that disreputable group of weasely journalists, William Cohan remains a standout.