Written By Hazel Weiser
Elizabeth Warren should be nominated as the head of the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection created when President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21, 2010.
Since late November 2008, when she was named chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Committee, Elizabeth Warren’s accessible outrage on radio and television made the causes of the financial collapse, the power of the banking lobby, and the influence of big money understandable. That is probably the reason why Wall Street isn’t backing her nomination. The Economic Times didn’t say anything nice about her in its July 28, 2010 article. “Public enemy” is the phrase used to describe her on Wall Street. Senator Dodd, the namesake for this watered down piece of regulatory legislation, is telling people that he doesn’t think Warren can garner the votes needed to pass through the Senate.
Other people count differently. Robert Gibbs is now calling her “very confirmable.”
Watch some of the back episodes of Jon Stewart interviewing Elizabeth Warren on The Daily Show and you, too, will understand why there is so much resistance to Warren’s nomination. She is smart and very funny. She is clear, and she is undaunted. She knows who is doing what and she doesn’t pretend that she doesn’t. She knows how government is supposed to act and explains how it isn’t doing its job.
Ironically, she first appeared on The Daily Show on April 15, 2009. Stewart’s interview was so long that it was broken into two parts. Part 1, as of today, had 132,756 airings since it was posted on The Daily Show’s website. That doesn’t include all of the folks who were watching the interview live. She next appeared on January 26, 2010, and that interview, much shorter, attracted 89,719 viewers on line.
OK, so the extended interview with John Yoo beat her out! But not that many other political figures have.
Who watches The Daily Show? In 2004, when a pop quiz was given to late night television watchers, The Daily Show viewers knew more about current affairs than either Leno or Letterman fans. That’s according to CNN. When Bill O’Reilly claimed that The Daily Show was watched by “stoned slackers,” a demographic survey was conducted, and soon it was discovered that Comedy Central viewers were more likely to have four years of college than those of Fox News.
Which somehow now makes Comedy Central elitist?
Again in April, 2007, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press issued its report What Americans Know: 1989-2007, confirming that at least in the last twenty years, we haven’t grown stupider; people know about as much about public affairs now as they did in the late 1980s. However, those who watched The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were as knowledgeable as those who got their news from newspaper websites and even beat out viewers of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer by a percentage point.
So smart, well-informed Americans know a lot about Elizabeth Warren, because she helped explain how credit default swaps and bundled sub-prime mortgages, creative vehicles for enormous greed, almost brought down capitalism. These folks are also the people who lost their pensions, and for many, their jobs, when the emperor’s new clothes were revealed not to be, and the US government had to make $700 billion available in TARP funds to save the banking industry from its own malfeasance. And it was Elizabeth Warren who asked ten hard questions that would require real accountability for the use of those funds, just two weeks after her appointment, and issued a report.
Watch her video explaining how she interpreted her appointment and responsibility. She is hardworking, too. The Congressional Oversight Committee has issued twenty-two reports (monthly, and sometimes, bi-monthly), some of them quite embarrassing, in that they reveal holes in regulation, a failure in accountability for how the TARP funds were being used, and how tenuous some banks’ finances remain. Read through those reports to see how a competent government official operates.
This is sounding all too familiar. When President Obama nominated Dawn E. Johnsen to become the Director of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), her nomination died and eventually she withdrew, because she knew too much about how that office should operate: non-partisanly. She was just too dangerous to some members of Congress who didn’t want any hearings into accountability for the torture memos OLC issued when John Yoo and Jay Bybee were there. After all, Professor Johnsen had drafted, based on her own experience as interim director during the Clinton presidency and scholarship, a statement of ten ”Principles to Guide the Office of Legal Counsel,” based on best, non-partisan practices developed by the office over the years. That statement was signed by nineteen distinguished former lawyers for OLC. None of them saw OLC as an extension of the President’s or Vice President’s offices. See the letter SALT issued supporting Johnsen’s nomination which includes citations to her scholarship, dated April 16, 2009.
Will we see competence in this new oversight role or will we see more nominees placed in positions of regulatory oversight who don’t believe in regulation? Ah, right, that’s how we got the Gulf oil spill, now isn’t it.