Such an ingrate, this Elizabeth Warren. She’s plucked out of academic obscurity for a life in Washington policy making and what did she do? She dared to what she thought was right, what she thought she was brought here to do.
That’s just not done, as the now Sen. Warren was told, according to her new book, A Fighting Chance.
A fierce consumer advocate supposedly brought in for that reputation, Warren soon learned that she was not supposed to aggravate the powerful – not an easy thing to avoid doing, for a real consumer advocate who isn’t there to assure consumers something is being done — that isn’t.
Larry Summers, then National Economic Council boss, laid down the rules for Warren.
He teed it up this way: I had a choice,” Warren writes. “I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”
There’s not much difference in how those rules apply to the Washington news media. Want scoops? Be good to the insiders. Piss off the insiders and you’re lucky to even get a press credential. Access journalism is all about serving insiders and getting dirt on their opponents (unless, of course, they are insiders you’re also protecting) or, waiting for the green light to attack one of their own who fell out of the club.
After coming up with the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, audaciously intended to keep banks from bilking their own customers, Warren was the presumed choice to head it. Obama had told her so.
But then the President told Warren she made Senate Republicans and Wall Street “very nervous,” urging her instead to take on advisory role. As it turned out, a White House aide said that meant merely to serve as a “cheerleader.”
If an agency charged with stopping banks that wreck lives for profit isn’t supposed to make anyone “nervous,” then it sounds like that agency should just close up shop and hand over their printers and paper weights to bureaucrats who cheerfully don’t do what we think they’re supposed to do. That way we get back to how Washington works, and the insiders can rest easy.
Obama summed it up for her, Warren writes. And he did it with words I find telling about his Goldilocks presidency, always trying to find just the right temperature and stay one step ahead of the bears.
“You’re jamming me, Elizabeth,” Obama told her, and she writes that he “urged me not to overplay my hand.”
“Trust me,” Obama said.