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?

Tags: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama (all tags)

Comments

51 Comments

not so fast....

Making assumptions here....

1.  Did Warren really want to head the agency?  GOP stalls the appointment, and she is filibustered next year when Dems have only 52 Senators.

2.  I wish she was a direct report to Obama, but I think there is real division in the administration over her role.

3.  Messy confirmation battles are not in Obama's DNA.  Plus with tax cuts, DADT, etc., there would have been no confmation hearings this year anyway.

by esconded 2010-09-17 08:48PM | 0 recs
RE: not so fast....

1. She should have been a recess appointment six weeks ago.

2. That there is division over such a no-brainer doesn't reflect well upon Obama

3. There didn't have to be confirmation hearings to be a fight. Obama made a mistake by not forcing Republicans to fight on such favorable ground for Democrats.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-17 08:59PM | 2 recs
What about Warren herself?

Big problem with this line of argument is that Warren herself seems pretty happy with the position. She was under no obligation to take it, if she believed it was just window-dressing she could and would have refused. I somehow doubt she is party of the sinister conspiracy to shaft liberals.

A drawn-out confirmation battle may have made for great politics - but I doubt that would have been great for Democrats. Rather the media attention would not be focused on the 41 Republicans opposed to her, but on the 2-3 Dems who oppose her as well. The D's may have won in the end, but it would not have been pretty or a slam dunk.

And besides, this way she can get started on work right away, and be there for the next 2 years, which would not have been the case with a recess appt or lengthy confirmation battle.

by vecky 2010-09-18 12:02AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Warren may be putting on a brave face, but this is obviously less than optimal or the bill would have been written to have the interim head report to both Treasury and the White House.

We need to have a battle over this, we can't be scared of fights when it's a 70/30 issue. That's just crappy political instincts from the WH political and economic teams.

She should have started more than a month ago. She could have stayed through the end of 2011 under a recess by tradition and through the end the next congress by reading of the constitution. And I don't want her there longer than the end of 2011 so that she'll have plenty of time to run for senate.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 12:17AM | 1 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Seems to me that you are not showing Warren very much respect.  

On one hand you present her as a strong candidate capable of making a real difference in DC.  OTOH, you show her as a person that is not strong enough to see that she is being used as a rube.

If she is as tough and capable as you seem to think, do you actually believe that she would allow the Obama admin to use her as PR material, only to be tossed aside later after she found out she was only a promotional stunt?  If that is true, then she doesn't have much a chance to become a progressive hero and you hope for her has been misplaced.

That's not very much respect.

by zmus 2010-09-18 02:41AM | 1 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

That's a false choice.

Is Warren the strongest potential choice? Yes. Is she being used as a rube? No.

She's making the best of a bad situation to protect the program she created. I don't see why this surprises anyone, that's the same exact move she did in supporting financial regulation even though the bill was far, far short of including the necessary reform.

She's taking what she can get. It isn't much, and that's on Obama.

And while it will be some time before we see the policy implications of this move, the political implications are clear: Obama blew it.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 02:51AM | 2 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

And you can sort all this out in your jamies in front of 'puter?  

How have heard people in politics, in DC, on cable shows, including the woman herself describe what sounds like a strong, important role, not just in starting this new agency, but in offer broader advice to the President.  

Yet you're the expert now?   You got this covered?   You know what the low down is?

You don't know anything.

by RichardFlatts 2010-09-18 08:18AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

I don't know the actual policy effects, that remains to be determined. And effects matter far more than how anyone says things are going to work at the start.

What I do not is that on the political side, Obama chickened out of a fight with the GOP on a great issue and squandered a huge opportunity to minimize losses in the midterms. That Obama let the GOP off the hook is simply obvious, just as obvious as how Democrats wanted the GOP defending the right of Wall St to rip people off.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 02:44PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Not a false choice at all.  In your desire to punch Obama, you want us to fall for the Warren is put a poor helpless pawn caught in the web of Obama's iimpotency.  I choose to believe Warren is not a pawn and is not helpless. 

You want to be unhappy, and I would guess the pursuit of unhappiness would be a right that you should have.

by zmus 2010-09-18 01:44PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

It isn't logical to conclude that if Warren decided to take a lesser job and make the best of a bad situation then she's a pawn. That's just silly.

Unhappy is the feeling after Demcrats getting their asses kicked in an election. This was a great opportunity to minimize those loses, but Obama chickened out on doing right by Democrats.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 02:46PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

This doesn't make any sense.  There's not even such a concept as an "interim head" in the bill. There's a provision that says the Secretary of the Treasury can exercise interim authority until a permanent head is appointed.  I have no idea how you would rewrite that provision to send the message that Obama sincerely loves progressives, and I honestly don't think it matters at all.  Yeah, if Obama really wanted to give Warren responsibility, he'd make it a Cabinet-level post and she'd get to wear the little crown from Burger King twice a week.  Whatever.

by Steve M 2010-09-18 01:03PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

My guess is that the angry progressives want one of two things, or perhaps both.

1.  They want Obama to poke his finger in the eye of conservatives.

2.  They want a protracted fight to confirm Warren, in which we would get no actually change, but the fight would be carthetic.  Of course, it wouldn't be carthetic, because Obama would not sufficiently poke his finger in the eye of conservatives, and then we would bitch and moan about how Obama is not fighting.  Meanwhile, someone else would be in charge of setting up this bureau.  It certainly would not be Warren, but this would apparently be a "good thing".  This other unseen person would probably be someone placed in that position by the financial industry.

Here's my advise for those wishing that Obama would engage in more eye poking.  Warren is now what conservatives a "policy czar", and conservatives really really hate it when Obama appoints one of these folks.  In fact, conservatives are convinced that these "policy czars" are making a HUGE difference in our country.  So enjoy it.  Eyes have been poked!

by zmus 2010-09-18 01:51PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

The point of a political fight isn't to poke eyes or do what the conseravtives really really hate, the point is to lose less seats this fall. Obama's disdain for fighting apparently ranks higher than his need to preserve congress, that's a problem.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 02:40PM | 1 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Ah, I understand.  The goal is not to make a policy difference, but to make a fight.  You see Warren as a political statement, not a progressive fighter for change.

I get you.  For you, this is politics, not government.

 

by zmus 2010-09-18 02:59PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Government is politics, don't be naive. That's why it's important to view actions through their effect when it comes to policy and politics.

This could be effective policy, that is yet to be determined. Yves Smith could easily be right that this is the sidelining of Warren. What's clear when it comes to policy, is that this certainly isn't a best case scenario, nobody who supports consumers wants the consumer protection head having to answer to Rham and Geithner.

But while we don't know the results of this when it comes to policy, we do know that this is piss-poor politics in a year the GOP is likely to win the House.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 03:06PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Help me out, since I am so naive.  Why is this piss poor politics?

by zmus 2010-09-18 03:12PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Well, if you start with the assumption that a Warren nomination battle will "change the narrative"...

But as I mentioned before it won't. Everyone will concentrate on the 2-3 dems who have objections, while giving the 41 republicans a pass. So the narrative will remain "dems infight and bicker amongst themselves, and can't get anything done in a timely manner."

by vecky 2010-09-18 03:21PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

You're only looking at it through the prism of villiage media. Local press covering elections in battleground states aren't going to care what Dodd's lame-duck ass thinks, they're going to care about the local election dynamics. And this is an election year when Democrats are spending hundreds of millions of dollars. This elevates an issue that Democrats want to spend money on.

But Obama chickened out, has refused to change course on the economy, which is awful news for Democrats.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 03:36PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

There would be no nomination battle.

It wouldn't even come up until at the New Year.  Best case scenario, she would be confirmed in January.  Most likely scenario, she would wait for 6 months or so, and even give up or accept an recess appointment. 

by zmus 2010-09-18 03:57PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Recess was the smart move. Obama should have done that on the first day of August recess. That was six weeks ago.

The goal should have been to bait the GOP into a fight. You don't do that with a Friday afternoon news dump on appointing an assistant.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 04:09PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

I don't understand how a recess appointment would have baited the GOP into a fight.  They would have whined about it a little and then let it go because it's not like they can do anything about it.  Look at the Donald Berwick recess appointment for a comparable example.

Something else to think about.  Do you think the business lobby would rather have Warren in her current position, or would they rather see her bottled up in a confirmation fight?  I think I know the answer.

by Steve M 2010-09-18 08:23PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

It's all about how you present it. Friday news dump doesn't bait anyone.

I think the business lobby would have feared Obama making a recess appointment and turning this into an electoral fight.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 10:49PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

This something many Democrats, who are non-activist, do not understand, but Republicans do. When you are in tough spot, you shore up the base, and the best way to do that is offer them a good fight. Two elections during the Bush presidency the Republicans did that, whether it be some nut like John Bolton, or a supreme court justice, otherwise some contentious social or economic issue that they knew was bound to receive organized opposition from Democrats.

Unfortunately this president has staked his presidency on bipartisanship, and he would rather deride his supporters at posh fundraisers than actually pick a meaningful fight with the Republicans.

by tarheel74 2010-09-19 12:50AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Yes, the GOP knows it, and it shows by the state they leave the country in everytime they gain power.

Not exactly a recommend strategy for the Democrats to follow.

by vecky 2010-09-19 02:17AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

So your idea of a Democratic strategy is to capitulate without a fight? Because whatever this administration is doing, it is not fighting the Republicans or conservatives. They spend more time berating the base than fighting the fights that matter, and this is reflected in the state of the Democratic party now.

by tarheel74 2010-09-19 10:09AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

The CFPB itself is a blow against Republicans and conservatives. 

by vecky 2010-09-19 11:44AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

An agency without tooth is completely useless. It will just fit into the narrative of yet another useless bureaucratic division.

by tarheel74 2010-09-19 01:30PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

And so is an agency whose head is locked in a long nomination battle. So having Warren as a special advisor seems the best case scenario for consumers. Maybe not so much for the politicians tho.

by vecky 2010-09-19 02:07PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

It will be the best case scenario for consumers if she has real powers. However, if her appointment is just another symbolic gesture like that of Paul Vocker, who is used more as a stage prop than anything else, then it will be a big disappointment. The jury is still out on that.

by tarheel74 2010-09-19 02:52PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

The best case scenario for consumers is if the agency has real powers and Warren is involved in setting it up.

Volcker was brought out of retirement to a purely advisory role as one among others. Warren OTOH has been appointed to a specific job. And if she thought it was merely symbolic she wouldn't have taken it. Or do you think you know something she doesn't?

by vecky 2010-09-20 01:06AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

The business lobby didn't want Warren to get a recess appointment because they didn't want her to hold the powers of the office, not because they feared a hypothetical "electoral fight."  I'll say it again, where is our Donald Berwick electoral fight?

by Steve M 2010-09-19 12:40PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Then it means that the President was more than willing to accomdate the business lobby. That's the problem. One cannot have it both ways. A temporary advisory position is well and good, but then again Paul Vocker is also an advisor who became more of stage prop.

by tarheel74 2010-09-19 01:29PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

If baiting the conservatives is the key issue, I don't see what the difference is between appointing her as a policy czar without confirmation and a recess appointment.  Both will tick off the conservatives.  In fact there is a lot more history of cons being baited into a fight from these policy czars than recess appointments.

by zmus 2010-09-18 09:52PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Either way, Obama ran from a fight instead of baiting the GOP to ensure one.

But conservatives don't fight on czars, they whine. What we need is a fight.

by Bob Brigham 2010-09-18 10:51PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

That's not how it played out in HCR or any of the other nominations, why would this be any different? 

by vecky 2010-09-19 02:15AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Well, this is MyDD and the Obama-bashing must be non-stop. Somebody's gotta do it, especailly since Kent disappeared after the Delaware Senta primary.

I just wonder how long it will be before some blog bircher starts whimpering "Iim disappointed with Elizabeth Warren!"

Monday? Tuesday? Maybe Tuesday's too late.

by spirowasright 2010-09-18 09:07PM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

Excellent point  ... on Maddow last night was was very upbeat and said not only have a say on the new agency but on broader policy as well.   "She would be in the room" she said and be able to offer her advice.

by RichardFlatts 2010-09-18 08:12AM | 0 recs
RE: What about Warren herself?

 

Just because she thinks this is better than getting no position at all, it does not mean she would have chosen this over actually being appointed head of the agency with - and this is key - independent statutory power.  What really baffles me about this is that for Obama, let's face it, this is a political appointment. Don't get me wrong - I love Elizabeth Warren, and I think she will do a great job, and could do a great job as agency head - but I also suspect lots of other less well known people could have as well. The rationale for having her involved at such a high level has always mostly been about politics: because she's seen as the grassroots level as someone with credibility. Because she has what Geithner and Summers do not.  And the political impact is basically completely blunted by the manner that Obama went to do this. It's almost as if he's trying to damage himself and his party politically.

What do you expect her to say? "I'm taking this job because its better than nothing, but I really want a different job"? Just because she thinks this is better than getting no position at all, it does not mean she would have chosen this over actually being appointed head of the agency with - and this is key - independent statutory power. 

What really baffles me about this is that for Obama, let's face it, this is a political appointment. Don't get me wrong - I love Elizabeth Warren, and I think she will do a great job, and could do a great job as agency head - but I also suspect lots of other less well known people could have as well. The rationale for having her involved at such a high level has always mostly been about politics: because she's seen as the grassroots level as someone with credibility. Because she has what Geithner and Summers do not. And the political impact is basically completely blunted by the manner that Obama went to do this. It's almost as if he's trying to damage himself and his party politically.

 

by Beet 2010-09-18 12:28AM | 0 recs
Liberals who hate Obama and want him to fail

There is a small group of these people but they are there and they are vocal.

Nothing Obama can do is good enough. 

If he does something that they like they pee and moan and assign sinister motives to it.  

These people need to start making their Nader signs now ... 2010 is just around the corner.   I am so sick of them.

by RichardFlatts 2010-09-18 08:15AM | 0 recs
RE: Liberals who hate Obama and want him to fail

Absolutely, but you know what without this "small group of people" walking and canvassing door to door, this President never had a chance in 2008 and will not have a chance in 2012, unless some of those people who can pay 30000/plate decide to get out of their cushy lives and do the dirty work. It's attitude like this (reflective of course of the administration's disdain for the base) that is keeping the progressive base at home and the union members far less enthusiastic to help any Democrats this election cycle. So keep it up.

by tarheel74 2010-09-18 10:16AM | 0 recs
We'll see sooner or later

Warren does not have a firm power since technically; she does not hold an agency/department/committee. However she has a direct “influence” being an assistant to the president and a special advisor. So hopefully, she’ll make good and sound decision which will benefit the country as a whole and not just for a significant few. We’ll see sooner or later on how she’ll handle this position.

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by rhea 2010-09-18 09:15AM | 0 recs
Regarding Warren

I see this going both ways. She can either be effective in this position, but since this position is largely titular, she can get sidelined like Paul Vocker and only get trotted out as a stage prop on certain occasions.

But I agree with the overall sentiment of this diarist. The President should have proposed her to head the new agency, and if there was a hold on her, be it by Republicans or dodgy democrats like Chris Dodd, he should have sidestepped the Senate and appointed her during the recess. All this could have been accomplished long ago and would have sent a message to the base that the President stands with them. Instead, like everything else, we have yet another questionable half-measure.

by tarheel74 2010-09-18 10:22AM | 0 recs
For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

that really makes me wonder whether he has it in him to win re-election in 2012.  I want him to win because he's the best one for the job, not simply because he's less crazy than the GOP candidate.

by LionelEHutz 2010-09-19 11:56AM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

he seems to be a lot bolder when it comes to mocking progressives though.

did you see the newest rant by Obama where he mocks those of us who wanted a public option in the health care bill so we wouldn't be forced to give our money to the very industry who has been killing people for profit?

http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2010/09/17/obama-mocks-public-option-supporters/

by jeopardy 2010-09-19 03:22PM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

But he was right isn't he:

We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

When was the last time we got such a major expansion of aid to the poor? 

by vecky 2010-09-20 01:11AM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

*sigh*

we've been through this many times before and it seems unlikely that we will agree about it now.

but no, a law that enshrines a for-profit private industry as the centerpiece of our healthcare system, funneling vast amounts of taxpayer money to companies that routinely try to kill people for profit, is not progressive legislation.

by jeopardy 2010-09-20 11:48AM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

What about the medicaid expansion portion of the law then?

Because you do know it's bigger than the "funneling vast amounts of taxpayer money to companies that routinely try to kill people for profit" bit.

Second, the taxes that pay for the bill apply to two categories - the medical industry itself, and those making over 250K. So i'm not sure why your so concerned.

by vecky 2010-09-20 11:55AM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

1) medicaid expansion is good, of course

2) that doesn't make up for completely screwing the pooch when it comes to health care reform (giving for-profit insurance companies and even BIGGER role instead of a smaller one).

Insurance companies are the problem (yes, there are a few other problems as well, but the insurance companies are the major one, imo) and HCR made the problem worse, not better, and squandered the chance to make it better.

by jeopardy 2010-09-20 02:45PM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

further, the HCR bill that was signed into law depends on regulators holding the line against insurance rate increases (both with premium rates and the % that has to be spent on treatment).

The bill provides power for regulators (in the case of the % spent on treatment, it's one regulator that has the power to change it). In other words, insurance companies can get those restrictions changed by telling regulators that they need them changed.

Well, we are already seeing how that's working out:

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurer in Connecticut, has already requested and received increases on individual market plans to cover the cost of new benefits mandated by the health care bill that start this year:

  • 4.8% increase related to the mandate about pre-existing conditions for children
  • up to 8.5% increases for mandated preventive care with no deductibles

Aetna, one of the nation's largest health insurers, said the extra benefits forced it to seek rate increases for new individual plans of 5.4% to 7.4% in California and 5.5% to 6.8% in Nevada after Sept. 23. Similar steps are planned across the country, according to Aetna.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon said the cost of providing additional benefits under the health law will account on average for 3.4 percentage points of a 17.1% premium rise for a small-employer health plan. It asked regulators last month to approve the increase.

In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Celtic Insurance Co. says half of the 18% increase it is seeking comes from complying with health-law mandates.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703720004575478200948908976.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLETopStories

 

by jeopardy 2010-09-20 06:40PM | 0 recs
RE: For all the good Obama has done it's this sort of tail between the legs BS

he seems to be a lot bolder when it comes to mocking progressives though.

did you see the newest rant by Obama where he mocks those of us who wanted a public option in the health care bill so we wouldn't be forced to give our money to the very industry who has been killing people for profit?

http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2010/09/17/obama-mocks-public-option-supporters/

by jeopardy 2010-09-19 03:22PM | 0 recs
I have been thinking about your overall point, that you think Obama is

missing political opportunities to pick a fight with the republicans.  I agree with this, that he is not good at this, and I wish that he would do a better job at finding wedge issues to push them around and give votes a clearer view of the differences between democrats and republicans. 

However, I felt the same way in the primary with Hillary Clinton, that he constantly failed to get tough.  Eventually, it became clear that this is not part of his political skill set.  Whether we like it or not, we knew who we were getting when we voted for him, and I voted for him in both the primary and the general. 

by zmus 2010-09-19 10:17PM | 1 recs

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