We’re reminded today -- in what is, IMHO, without question one of the most important political reads of 2011 -- how, over the past three years, Elizabeth Warren has learned a thing or two about brutality in Suzanna Andrews’ Pulitzer-worthy profile of the Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, in the November issue of Vanity Fair, entitled: “The Woman Who Knew Too Much.”
Indeed, Andrews provides new details (h/t to Yves Smith, who refers to Andrews’ “couple of whoppers”) on just how brutal it was for Warren in Washington over the past few years, at first in her role as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and then as a Special Assistant to the President, tasked with setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
But, it is Andrews’ focus upon the behind-the-scenes political machinations and eventually successful attempts to throw Warren under the Wall Street bus--not just at the hands of Republicans, but also in large part due to those, supposedly, within the Democratic Party—earlier this year by, among others, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House Chief-of-Staff Bill Daley, wherein we learn precisely where the rubber on those bus tires hit the road.
Among other matters, Andrews covers the following:
--how former Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was instrumental in drumming up anti-Warren fever on the Hill;
--why Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner -- despite playing nice in public and putting out a couple of placating one-liners in press releases on her behalf -- ”hated” Warren, and, as I noted it in numerous posts over the past couple of years, never forgave her for making a fool of him in congressional hearings in 2009;
--that Warren did not know she was being, officially, thrown under the proverbial bus until early July, a little over three months ago; a couple of weeks after that, it was announced that former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray would be the new appointee-designate to chair the CFPB.
--Andrews also reminds us of how the White House stood by, not doing a damn thing this past May and June, as Republicans ate her for lunch in congressional hearings while corporatist politicians of all political stripes drew their knives, all while taking aim at Warren’s back.
Here’s just a small sampling of this powerful article. I can say from personal knowledge that it demonstrates the inconvenient truth that Warren really did not know she was going to be railroaded up until just a few weeks before it actually occurred in public…
The Woman Who Knew Too Much
By Suzanna Andrews
…[In May] Warren, who learned only in July that she wouldn’t get the job, still believed that Obama might ask her to run the C.F.P.B. “It’s money and power, the only two things we are talking about here,” she said, speaking of the people who were trying to kill the C.F.P.B. “in the back alleys,” as she put it. “There are many who are rich and powerful who say the system works fine as it is…”
…At a time of record corporate profits, a time when 14 million Americans are out of work, when millions have lost their homes and, according to the Census Bureau, the ranks of those living in poverty has grown to one in six—that Elizabeth Warren could be publicly kneecapped and an agency devoted to protecting American consumers could come under such intense attack is, ultimately, the story about who holds power in America today…
Andrews provides the blow-by-blow, describing how Warren was nailed behind her back by the “powers that be” from April through June of this year.
She reminds us that “…the financial industry contributed $43 million to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, a record haul. But his relations with Wall Street had soured—remarkably many of them were enraged over his criticism of their bonuses in late 2009, which is also when he called them ‘fat cat bankers.’”
…By April, however, Warren’s standing in the White House was shaky. Three months earlier, in what was seen as an attempt to “repair” his relationship with his Wall Street donors, Obama had brought in William Daley as his new chief of staff. A former banker at JPMorgan Chase, Daley came into the administration just as senior Obama adviser David Axelrod left. But while Axelrod and another top adviser, Valerie Jarrett, were perceived as strong Warren supporters, Daley had reportedly opposed the creation of the C.F.P.B. A spokesperson for the White House said that, although Daley was “not recused from” discussions about the C.F.P.B., he chose “not to participate in the process of selecting a nominee for C.F.P.B. director.” Which is possible. But with Daley and Geithner—one of Obama’s closest advisers—sharing center stage, the balance of power in the debate over Warren shifted. Geithner would never criticize Warren publicly—and indeed, as a Treasury spokesperson says, he “has expressed his support and admiration for Professor Warren many times”—but few people in Washington doubted that he remained opposed to her candidacy. To at least one person who saw them in meetings together it appeared that “he looked down on her for no apparent or justifiable reason.” As for Warren, if one mentions the video “Elizabeth Warren Makes Timmy Geithner Squirm,” she says nothing, but an impish smile crosses her face…
And, we learn of the “real bipartisanship” that rules Washington every day…
…it wasn’t just Republicans. In May, Christopher Dodd, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut, who had chaired the powerful Senate Banking Committee, denied to Politico the rumors that he was trying to kill Warren’s nomination. But his cryptic statement about people with “ego” problems standing in the way of the bureau was widely seen as a poison dart aimed at Warren. During the passage of Dodd-Frank, Dodd, who is now chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, was seen as one of Warren’s more influential opponents. Among Wall Street’s staunchest allies—to the tune, in his last election, of almost $4 million in campaign donations for a race he did not even complete—he had sponsored the reform bill in the Senate but had several times appeared to yield to bank opposition, entertaining a number of proposals that would have either killed the C.F.P.B. outright or severely restricted its independence. Warren fought back, not only by calling in support from the White House, but also by speaking out in public. In March 2010 she lashed out in the Huffington Post: “My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” she said. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
Citing Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, in particular, Andrews talks of senators “who also appeared to be trying to pry her away from the C.F.P.B.” And, we’re reminded that Reid received $4.7 million from Wall Street in 2010, while Schumer garnered $6.2 million from the same, usual suspects, the most of any senator.
During May and June, the White House was notably silent concerning the ongoing brutalization of Warren during this critical time.
…for weeks Obama did nothing. As the attacks on Warren and the C.F.P.B. heated up during May and June, the silence from the White House was deafening. Even leading Democrats, like Barney Frank, were confused about the president’s intentions—would he name Warren in a recess appointment or not? And they were stunned when Obama jettisoned her.
Then, of course, Andrews dives into the apologists and all of the ass-covering that occurred as folks like David Axelrod attempted to explain away this “deafening” silence, because they didn’t want to “score political points by martyring her.”
And, as Andrews notes, this is where the inconvenient truth gets in the way of the misdirected corporatocratic narrative. And, that’s because Axelrod’s argument “…makes sense. Except for one key point. The man Obama chose, Richard Cordray, is hardly more likely to win Senate confirmation, or Wall Street’s support, than Elizabeth Warren. The Wall Street Journal would write that his career ‘sounds like Mrs. Warren without the charm.’”
So, while Richard Cordray may have just squeaked by the Senate Banking Committee, the reality is that “…Republican senators reiterated their pledge to block any nomination to the C.F.P.B. until their demands for changes to the agency were met. Whether they will back down from that promise is anyone’s guess….How hard the Obama administration will fight the attacks [against the CFPB] is another question. The president’s concessions to Republicans on the debt-ceiling deal inspired little confidence among the agency’s supporters."
Andrews places some hope in the truth that "...a new Obama appears to have suddenly emerged—one... ...perhaps propelled by his sagging approval ratings and the coming campaign..." And, that he "...has suddenly stopped compromising 'with himself,'" as it was recently stated in a New York Times editorial. She talks of a hopefully refocused Obama "...who—with his jobs plan and his call for economic fairness in cutting the deficit, including raising taxes on corporations and the rich—seems, for the moment, to be taking a stand for Main Street.”
And, of course, also on the upside, we now have Ms. Warren with an honest-to-goodness shot at actually returning to D.C. as a senator.
Demonstrating how close Andrews got to Warren to write this article, the author states, “…Warren told me that the stakes are too high for her not to run, too high not to try to continue the fight ‘for the middle class.’”…And, Warren tells her, “G.E. doesn’t pay any taxes and we are asking college kids to take on even more debt to get an education, and asking seniors to get by on less. These aren’t just economic questions. These are moral questions.”
…Although heavily lobbied by leading Democrats to run, Warren was warned by many that the fight would be brutal. Even her brother David told her, “Don’t do this, it’s too nasty.” Looking back on her time in Washington, though, and the months she spent setting up and fighting for the C.F.P.B., she says, “I’ve done brutal.”
Bold type is diarist’s emphasis.
Again, I strongly encourage you to checkout Andrews’ entire story. (The link’s up above.) It’s definitely one of the best political reads of the year.
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You may donate to Elizabeth Warren’s Massachusetts Senate Campaign by clicking RIGHT HERE.
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In the past few years, I’ve published well over 60 posts at DKos which feature Elizabeth Warren. Here are links to a few of those posts covering topics pertinent to Andrews’ profile of Warren in the November issue of Vanity Fair:
“Stop Making Lame Excuses As To Why Elizabeth Warren Wasn’t Appointed CFPB Chair” (7/16/11)
“Economic Truthiness, Implausible Deniability And Yves Smith On Elizabeth Warren” (3/22/11)
“Johnson, Krugman, Nocera: Elizabeth Warren Is Getting Thrown Under The Bus” (3/20/11)
“It's Geithner's CFPB! Naked Cap: Warren's Being Sidelined (update)” (9/16/10)
“Why Tim Geithner’s Attempting To Torpedo Liz Warren (updated)” (7/15/10)
“TARP Watchdog's ‘Damning’ Report: Geithner...‘Preposterous.’” (4/7/09)
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