Common Dreams displayed in large letters the headline "Obama Snubs Elizabeth Warren." After Jane Hamsher's gratuitous swipe at the President for being a sellout to banks for this decision, her Firedoglake blog featured a recommended diary with the title "The Beheading of Elizabeth Warren." And a front pager on "America Blog" declared Obama not worthy of our votes in 2012 based on this decision. The coordinator for the Facebook page of the Sacramento chapter of the "Progressive Alliance" complained that President Obama "wimped out," and when I challenged him to actually quit calling the President names and tell us what was wrong with the new nominee with respect to the operation of the CFPB and its success as the implementation of this brilliant progressive idea birthed by Warren herself, his response boiled down to this:
The importance of this decision goes far beyond the personal attributes of either Warren or Cordray. Rather, it's about the relative strength of progressives at the grassroots level. Unless Warren asked not to be appointed, then this represents an important loss for progressives regardless of how Cordray performs.This is the clearest explanation of the position of the strident Left. The idea? The agency? Feh. It doesn't matter how it's run! He didn't listen to us!!! It's plain narcissism. It's so narcissist in fact that they don't even care whether the progressive idea (the agency and its functions) is being implemented well but rather whether the President "listened to" them about who to appoint to head the agency. Seriously. They care more about whether we are able to get our choice candidate appointed than whether a progressive idea is implemented well. Astonishing. Just where did they find this definition of "progressive," I wonder.
But what about Cordray himself? While I too wanted Elizabeth Warren to head the agency, I subscribe to this really old fashioned idea that the idea of consumer protection and the institution that will perform that function is the most important thing here.
Cordray was hand-picked by Elizabeth Warren to run the enforcement division of the new Bureau. Here's what Warren herself had to say about the appointment.
"Rich has always had my strong support because he is tough and he is smart-and that's exactly the combination this new agency needs," she said. "He was one of the first senior leaders I recruited for the agency, and his work and commitment have made it clear that he will make a stellar director."And by the way, here is what Professor Warren had to say about President Obama:
This week is the culmination of two years of hard battles. The President put the consumer agency in his first outline of financial regulatory reform, and he never wavered in his support for it. The agency was declared dead several times, and weak versions and lousy bargains were offered again and again, but he stood fast. When he signed Dodd-Frank into law, creating the new agency, he offered me the chance to stand it up -- something for which I will always be grateful. The fights continued, and again, the President never wavered in his support. In fact, just last week he issued a veto threat if the Republicans try to move the agency's funding to the political process, and I know that in the future he won't allow opponents of reform to succeed in weakening the CFPB.And oh by the way, in the early stages of the process, given two options - being nominated to head the new agency or doing the groundwork to set it up, Elizabeth Warren herself chose to set up the agency and not be nominated to run it (h/t to desertflower1 in comments). But but... I thought it was a betrayal! Cop-out! Wall Street got their way! Huh? What's going on here?
The Boston Herald calls Cordray an "outspoken bank critic and Warren ally." Bloomberg News demonstrates the point:
Mark Seifert recalls being impressed when Richard Cordray, then the Ohio state treasurer, walked into the offices of his Cleveland activist group one day in August 2007.Indeed, the banking and financial loan shark industry is not happy. Not. At. All.
Seifert’s organization -- Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, or ESOP -- was known for its confrontational tactics, such as the time it gathered at the home of a regional vice president of lender Countrywide Financial Corp. and covered his lawn and flower beds with small plastic “loan” sharks to draw attention to mortgage abuses. [...]
Far from being aghast, Cordray approved of the tactics and said the small, Cleveland-focused group should expand, Seifert recalled. Before long, it was advising homeowners on how to avoid foreclosure in 10 Ohio offices.
A year later, Cordray became Ohio’s attorney general in a special election and expanded his horizons as well. Using the powers of his new office, he took the biggest banks, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Citigroup Inc. (C) and Ally Financial Inc., to court over mortgage servicing practices and losses to state pension funds.
Of all the officials in the consumer agency, Cordray “frightens me the most,” said Jennifer Monty Rieker, an attorney for financial services firms with Cleveland-based Weltman, Weinberg and Ries.Rep. Barney Frank, one of the authors of the Wall Street Reform legislation that created the new agency, said, "But Cordray has a very good record protecting consumers." And here is one of the best friends of working people the Senate has ever known and progressive champion Sen. Sherrod Brown:
“We have a bureau that is potentially filled with enemies of the banking industry and want to bring us down,” she said at a presentation at the Consumer Bankers Association convention in Orlando on June 13.
"I'm proud to call Rich a colleague and a friend, and I look forward to watching him continue the important work begun by Elizabeth Warren. Rich shares her vision that consumers deserve a voice that is as loud and powerful as that of the financial services industry."People who know him best support him strongly. Here's a word from Progress Ohio:
"Ohioans who have long known Rich Cordray understand the integrity, intelligence and fairness he will bring to the office. While ProgressOhio is frustrated by the political atmosphere that has led to this change, our members and all Ohioans know that Rich Cordray will be a strong consumers advocate in this position."There seems to be little doubt, including in Elizabeth Warren's mind and in even the mind's of those who are trying to bash President Obama for not picking Warren (hell, even the PCCC put out a statement expressing disappointment about Obama's decision but supporting Cordray), that Cordray will be as strong an advocate for consumers as Elizabeth Warren herself. I am and will remain and big fan of Elizabeth Warren's, and this country owes her a debt of gratitude for her courage, grit, intellect and drive. I hope Professor Warren runs for Senate in Massachusetts (so long, Scott Brown).
As far as the agency itself is concerned though, it will be in great hands with Cordray. But the Republicans will take up the cause of Wall Street and try to block Cordray as well. To that end, it's time to start calling your Senators!