Might Elizabeth Warren Get the CFPB Nod After All?

A Wall Street Journal report suggests that Elizabeth Warren might wind up getting nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau despite fierce Congressional opposition because other possible nominees have turned down the job, in many cases because they want Warren to have it:

White House officials seeking someone to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have so far failed to find a nominee, with several candidates rebuffing the administration’s overtures, according to people familiar with the process.

One concern of some: That accepting would undercut Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor and consumer advocate who is currently a special adviser to the president charged with setting up the bureau. She remains a hugely popular figure among many Democrats and anathema to many Republicans.

Many on the left want Ms. Warren, a longtime critic of the financial industry who pushed to create the consumer protection agency, to become its director….

That deadline could result in the White House nominating Ms. Warren, now a special adviser to the president charged with setting up the bureau. She is believed to want the job but her candidacy likely would trigger a Senate confirmation battle. President Barack Obama could avoid that fight by appointing her during a congressional recess before July 21.

I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, since I do think Warren is the best choice, but I see the odds of this happening as zero:

1. Obama is moving further and further to the right. As Glenn Greenwald points out:

Like most first-term Presidents after two years, Obama is preoccupied with his re-election, and perceives — not unreasonably — that that goal is best accomplished by adopting GOP policies. The only factor that could subvert that political calculation — fear that he could go too far and cause Democratic voters not to support him — is a fear that he simply does not have: probably for good reason. In fact, not only does Obama not fear alienating progressive supporters, the White House seems to view that alienation as a positive, as it only serves to bolster Obama’s above-it-all, centrist credentials

2. A Warren nomination would be over Geithner’s dead body. He has succeeded in extending his influence beyond that of a typical Treasury secretary; he has no reason to have a media-genic regulator crossing swords with him (as Warren would).

Just as CEOs tend to be chosen based on selection criteria that are artificially narrow, so to are candidates for major bureaucratic roles often chosen for their glittering resumes when candidates who are less flashy but have germane experience can often rise to the occasion. There are no doubt other choices once his recruiting team starts to cast its net wider, and that’s the far more logical route for them to go than a Warren recess appointment.

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  1. Norman

    Interesting thoughts. I wonder about the “O”‘s chances of reelection? His throwing that $1 Billion figure out for his war chest needs, if that was to intimidate other wannabe’s or the continued giving in to the right? As they say, 18 months is a lifetime in politics. If he keeps giving the store away, he won’t just lose the Progressive vote, but also a large block of the democratic vote too. He may be a smooth talker, but he’s turned his back on many who believed his B.S. and voted for him. Only the hard core will vote to reelect, which isn’t going to be enough. I suppose that he might have a chance if he runs against Osama bin Laden, but I doubt the the Repuglicons are going to nominate him.

    1. Art Eclectic

      My guess is that it hinges on who the GOP nominates. Right now, there are no sane candidates who are electable in a general. Romney is the best shot they have of the list of potential candidates who’ve suggested their hat is in the ring. A lot rides on whether the Teaparty manages a palace coup and gets an extremist candidate to the GOP nomination.

      Even damaged, Obama will wipe the floor with a Michelle Bachmann or Mike Huckabee type nutjob.

    2. Zachary Pruckowski

      “If he keeps giving the store away, he won’t just lose the Progressive vote, but also a large block of the democratic vote too.”

      The problem is that as suboptimal a President as Obama has turned out to be, come November 2012 he’s going to be running against someone ranging from Mitt Romney to Mike Huckabee, and he’s going to have spent hundreds of billions of dollars demonizing them as overly conservative and/or dangerous. Those attacks will also help him among liberals, and his opponent will be busy highlighting how “liberal” Obama is, further helping him among liberals.

    3. Bill

      Amen Norman…I’m a lifelong Dem who voted for him, but will not next time…unless I see many bankers being charged with fraud, put on trial, and going to jail before 2012.

    4. Rabid Cranky Troll

      I wouldn’t underestimate the GOP’s ability to act all batsh*t crazy and scare the crap out of Democratic party useful idiots, enough to stampede them into voting for Bush III.

  2. ambrit

    The constraints you mention suggest that Mz Warren could be set out by the Administration as a “Stalking Horse.” Who would be ‘Progressive’ enough but non-threatning to the Fresh Water Vizir to get the nod with a “sigh of resignation” from the Golpistas de Sombre?
    Someone had better get one ot two competent back ups ready before this Administration ‘settles for’ yet another Aparatchik at the levers of power.
    “Ignore that man behind the curtain!”

  3. Middle Seaman

    Agree with the post. I don’t buy Greenwald with generalization, “Like most first-term Presidents after two years, Obama is preoccupied with his re-election, and perceives — not unreasonably — that that goal is best accomplished by adopting GOP policies.” Were on earth does this come from? The only example seems to be Big Dawg and G. didn’t understand him either.

    Obama and Warren is a bad cocktail; Warren is a tough minded bright individual while is a spineless mediocre mind. He will stay away from her. Geithner and the segment of his advisers that tend tight will object Warren’s nomination.

  4. Dan

    The WSJ article is probably nothing more than a distraction to lull Warren supporters into complacency.

    It is not that this administration is worse than the last, it is that it is a much bigger disappointment.

    1. Tao Jonesing

      It is not that this administration is worse than the last, it is that it is the same.

      Change you can believe in = no change except a (D) replacing an (R).

      1. R C Uppena

        Jesse Ventura, on the TV show The View, said do’t vote Republican nor Democrat, —vote Independent in 2012.

  5. Lilguy

    I was an enthusiastic Obama backer during his candidacy–“Hope” “Change you can believe in” blah-blah-blah–but he lost me in the first year with his bank and big business bailouts that were an order of magnitude larger than his “build America” jobs effort.

    Badly misplace priorities for which there have been few returns, if any, in economic growth or societal benefit.

    If the Republicans can find a rational, reasonable candidate (and, in the early going, that appears impossible), one who is pragmatic vice ideological and focused on helping the many, not the wealthy few, I would vote for him/her.

    And I’m mad at myself for being so enthusiastic about Obama. I won’t vote for the hypocrite again, even if that means not voting.

    1. Rabid Cranky Troll

      The problems are structural. They’re not the sort of things that can be solved by voting the “right guy/gal” into office.

      I wouldn’t waste my time voting for anyone who is serious about getting his/her @ss into office. That sort of selfish careerism/inability to understand or see the structural problems on the part of our elites is a big part of the problem, if you think about it.

      Unless you live in a swing state, and feel compelled to elect “the lesser of two evils.”

  6. DP

    “A Warren nomination would be over Geithner’s dead body.”

    That would be two birds with one stone. Stop trying to get my hopes up.

  7. someofparts

    I’m guessing they don’t want a big confirmation battle in front of the cameras either. Can you imagine Ms. Warren crossing swords with Congressional Teabilly extremists? The media would be lit up for months over the zingers she would lay on them. Plus, it would be such good drama to watch drooling sycophants looking like bullies beating up a plain-spoken, unassuming little old grannie.

  8. Greg

    What are the odds of Geithner sticking around for another four years as Treasury Secretary? The second of Yves Smith’s reason that Warren won’t receive the official nod hinges on Geithner’s objection to her appointment but what of Geithner’s own long term plans and aspirations?

    The average tenure of a Treasury Secretary is about 3 years (http://bit.ly/euM7y7), but let’s just say that Geithner sticks around for the full first term of Obama, will he be back in the spring of ’13? And if he isn’t, then doesn’t the second objection for Warren go away?

  9. Paul Tioxon


    Elizabeth is out pressing the flesh. This is done on your personal behalf, usually when you are campaigning for yourself, not just the cause. So, for those of you arm chair bloggers, and fans of Liz, now is the time, and here is the place. As much as this is a well regarded blog, you need to voice your demands that she be appointed with someone who is not reading your favorite finblog. Take the next step an be an operational component of a democratically controlled republic.

    You can also call or write to the President:

    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500
    Please include your e-mail address
    Phone Numbers

    Comments: 202-456-1111
    Switchboard: 202-456-1414
    FAX: 202-456-2461

    Comments: 202-456-6213
    Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

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