Congratulations and Good Luck to Elizabeth Warren

I’m cautiously optimistic with the dual appointment of Elizabeth Warren to be Assistant to the President to work at Treasury to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

Frankly, no one knows what this appointment will mean in practice except perhaps Obama, Warren, and Timmeh Geithner. And no one knows how well Warren will negotiate the inevitable bureaucratic battles ahead, particularly with whoever replaces Rahm.

But I’m optimistic for two reasons. First, I have a lot of trust in Warren herself. She’s proven her ability to surprise her opponents in bureaucratic battles thus far. I also suspect (though don’t know for a fact) that she negotiated the Assistant to the President position as protection against anything Timmeh and Larry Summers might try. She seems to have demanded certain things with this nomination. And gotten them. And–as DDay linked earlier–she has expressed confidence that this is a win.

The President asked me, and I enthusiastically agreed, to serve as an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has also asked me to take on the job to get the new CFPB started—right now. The President and I are committed to the same vision on CFPB, and I am confident that I will have the tools I need to get the job done. [my emphasis]

So given the respect I have for Warren, I take her at her word that she will have the power to make of CFPB what it needs to be.

The other reason I’m cautiously optimistic is because the Chamber of Commerce is screaming like a stuck pig over these developments. Which, in my book, is generally a sign that something good has happened.

All that said, the appointment of Warren just means that both the White House and activists have more work to do. For the White House, not only do they need to fulfill whatever promises they made to Warren. Just as importantly, though, if they don’t actually use the fact that they finally have someone who can speak for and to the middle class (without the kind of gaffes that Joe Biden inevitably makes) to their advantage they will be really hurting themselves. Is Warren booked for the Sunday shows this weekend? If not, why not?

As for the rest of us, one of the reasons I think Warren was successful in negotiating what she sees as a successful resolution to this position is because her broad support was very clear to the White House. A wide group of people made it clear that Warren was the only acceptable candidate for this position.

If we get complacent, it’ll be a lot harder for Warren to do what she’d like to do with the position.

Progressives finally won something from this Administration. Maybe. But we’re only going to be able to keep it if we continue to make noise.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. BayStateLibrul says:


    The whole discussion about Obama and Warren is a cautionary tale, in my


    Folks were banging Obama… and perhaps slanting what happened, to fit their point of view.

    • phred says:

      BSL, has it occurred to you that all that “banging” is what got him to do what he did?

      How often have progressives been told that we have to “make him do it”, whatever the “it” might be at the moment. Well, that’s why some of us are screaming to high heaven — to force him to behave better. It is encouraging that it might finally be starting to pay off : )

      • BayStateLibrul says:

        But since when does Obama listen to Progressives?

        You were the first to write-in Elizabeth for Senator, so you must be

        tickled that she will lead the office (grin).

        Warren for Prez

        • bmaz says:

          I would love to see Warren primary Obama for President. And do not believe the spin, the real power unti there is a confirmed or recess installed formal head of CFPB rests entirely with Tim Geithner.

          • bobschacht says:

            the real power unti there is a confirmed or recess installed formal head of CFPB rests entirely with Tim Geithner.

            I don’t know about “entirely,” but you make a good point about this.

            However, Warren’s service as head of the Congressional Oversight Panel makes her as much of an expert on the role of Treasury in the bailouts, etc. as Geithner, and IMHO she is at least as smart, and probably more eloquent, than he is. And as special assistant to the president, she has as much access to Obama as Geithner does. If she uses that access wisely, she will be able to get most of what she wants, and that is a big plus.

            Bob in AZ

            • BillE says:

              Does anyone think that Warren didn’t think this through? She knows the players involved. Everything I have heard about her and all the people I know who knew her from Penn Law in the 90s thinks she will be awesome at it and she would not have taken the job as a figurehead.

              Again wait and see, the proof will be obvious, she won’t go down quietly if they screw with her.

              • masaccio says:

                I agree with you. She is really smart, and my friends say she has really smart young and energetic people around her. She makes Geithner look like a child and Summers like a dirty old man.

          • missourimule says:

            I would love to see Warren primary Obama for President.

            Yes, please! In November, since I can no longer in good conscience vote for the Democrat in my Senate race (and I sure as hell won’t vote for Roy Blunt), I’m thinking of writing in her name. Maybe if enough people did that it would get some attention.

          • cbl2 says:

            thank you for reading through and providing the 4-1-1 on “effective”, ‘operative’ dates in David’s earlier post – much appeciated

        • phred says:

          Warren for Prez, indeed : )

          I’m tickled having her nipping at the heels of the thugs that got us into this mess, but I will be much much happier still when she replaces Obama ; )

  2. Arbusto says:

    Sorry, once (multiple actually) bitten twice shy is my feeling on Obamaco. As good an advocate as Warren is, given the warren at the WH and the likes of Geither, Summers and gatekeeper Emanual, she’s more likely a professional left figurehead.

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      But you haven’t seen Warren in action?

      She’s a bulldog, great selection…

      She doesn’t back down.

    • lasthonestperson says:

      Most progressives were fooled yesterday by a stage play masquerading as reality for the purpose of getting active progressives back on board w/ Obama. The President did not appoint Warren to head the bureau.

      He appointed her to be a sort of liason between the agency and the White House, including the Sec’y of the Treasury. She is to help organize the agency as it’s setting up, but can’t pick who’s going to be on it. So she has no authority over personnel even at the start w/ the exception of the interim staff to help w/ the job of creating the bureau’s structure, and later on will have no authority over anything in the agency. The best she will be able to do is to tell the President if things seem to be moving in the wrong direction (not that anyone will let her know what’s really going on if there’s a chance the President might find it objectionable).

      If she had been appointed as head of the bureau, she would have been right now choosing who would carry out its mission, and would be setting its priorites and activities for as long as she held the position. What she will actually be doing is creating the structure–what depts. there will be, what their putative responsibilities are to be, and who will report to whom–with no authority over what is actually done in these depts. and with these titles.

  3. plunger says:

    I think it’s a brilliant ploy to appear to reward her, while ensuring she can never have any impact. It will become increasingly difficult to get the President’s ear and make anything of substance happen.

    Just the way the banksters like it.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      o/t to Plunger: You are the most encyclopedic 9/11 guy I know of. Can you cast your eyes over to this Jeff Kaye diary comment for a moment please? Trying to see if CNN scrubbed (or someone scrubbed CNN) something I saw on 9/11, the bombing of Kabul. Truthers must have the original video, yes? Is this a truther topic already? Thanks, I appreciate your expertise.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        o/t resolved: CNN not scrubbed, I just can’t count forwards to EST from PST.

        Bombing of Kabul on 9/11 starts here. Click a thumbnail and start watching. I’ve watched most of this particular 40-minute vid. If I remember right, govt (Congress, State, DOJ) is evacuated, Bush has landed in Nebraska, Pentagon biggest wigs are in session, Taliban is denying they/OBL did 9/11, and we’re denying that we’re bombing Kabul. Bombs just happen I guess. Odd chance it may be Northern Alliance? Maybe I’m missing something — they say Taliban spiritual leader is Mullah Omar and he’s in Taliban spiritual center which is in Kandahar, 300 miles south of Kabul. So why is Kabul being bombed and not Kandahar? Is this a way to pin it on the Northern Alliance, or did the Northern Alliance really send cruise missiles into an ammunition dump in Kabul on the night of 9/11-12?

  4. kyeo says:

    Also, regardless of anyone’s feelings about Obama or anyone else in the administration, I have a hard time seeing how this can’t be a good thing to at least some degree.

  5. BillE says:

    This is nice, if it real. Having the dual reporting paths is the key, I think. The Rubinites have very specific intentions of saving the current banking sector on the backs of consumers/middle class. Warren in theory is against that strategy.

    We will have to see if this is just an election ploy or real meat and potatoes for the rest of us.

    • joanneleon says:

      This is nice, if it real. Having the dual reporting paths is the key, I think. The Rubinites have very specific intentions of saving the current banking sector on the backs of consumers/middle class. Warren in theory is against that strategy.

      We will have to see if this is just an election ploy or real meat and potatoes for the rest of us.

      I think you nailed it, BillE.

      That being said, I want to be clear that I am glad that she got some kind of role. But she is not the interim/acting Director of the CFPB right now. Tim Geithner is.

      And you make a really good point about the Rubinite plan to bring back the banks, slowly, on the backs of the already suffering consumers. Presumably, since Obama appointed them, and continues to have them as his advisors, he agrees with this strategy. Elizabeth Warren repeatedly rails against this kind of practice and about the abuses of the financial industry. This puts her at odds with the dominant Rubinite cabinet, and in a position that has no official power, like the acting director position would have.

  6. bobschacht says:

    Thanks for a little bit of optimism on this point, as counterbalance to bmaz’s dark cynicism. Warren, for a Harvard perfesser, has proven more adept at inside-the-beltway bureaucratic insider fighting than most have been willing to grant. And now, in her new position, she is among Obama’s closest advisers. How she manages her relationship with him will be important; of course, we’ll see how that sorts out. But apparently she and Obama have known each other since Obama’s Harvard days.

    I greet this as good news, and am delighted.

    Bob in AZ

  7. Margaret says:

    Progressives finally won something from this Administration.

    Pardon me if I think of this as nothing more than a cynical scrap to get progressives to vote.

    • wirerat1 says:

      Amen. Nothing more than a continuation of the pandering of the administration to try to get the Progressives to blindly follow the WH, especially since they know everyone knows what sellouts they all are.

      It’s great she can help setup the office and “advise” the President. What happened to recess appointments? Couldn’t he have created the office and appointed her all while Congress was away?

      Seems kinda silly, unless you’re just talking out your ass and trying to appeal Wall St., while attempting to manipulate your base into supporting you.

      Hey, send Kaine or Biden out again.. They did a fantastic job in inspiring me.

    • oldhippiejan says:

      I’m surprised it took 21 comments to express this sentiment. It was the first thing I thought of.

      Well stated, Margaret.

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    Can anybody think of a previous dual appointment to server as an Asst. to the President and to a position under a cabinet level official? I haven’t had time to research it, but it seems unusual. Geithner is an idiot to have accepted this situation. From a pure bureaucratic point of view, it can only undermine his position. I hope she ends up pushing him out.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Cheney wasn’t a cabinet level officer. The interesting thing to me is that she’s got a position out in the bureaucracy and one in the WH. Scooter was a double-headed monster position, but all inside the WH.

        The other sort of similar arrangement that occurs to me was Kissinger as Nat. Sec. Advisor and Sec. of State, but he was head honcho of two departments, which while very weird, is more stable from an organizational perspective.

        Warren is working for Geithner and Geithner’s boss as the same time. If he gives her direction, she can “forget” to mention it in her meetings with Obama and get him to direct her to do just the opposite. At least, that’s what I’d do if I were in her position and got directions I didn’t like. But maybe I’m just a bad person…

    • sabretoothedcritter says:

      hmmm…grooming Warren for the VP slot in 2012? Would that be enough to get progressives to “come home”? Very possibly Maybe, if Timmeh and a couple others get the boot.

    • bobschacht says:

      Very good point. This will be a very delicate dance, among those three. I don’t think Geithner had a choice. We already know what his choice was. And we will learn just how savvy Warren is, as she navigates this unprecedented situation.

      Bob in AZ

    • Sara says:

      :Can anybody think of a previous dual appointment to server as an Asst. to the President and to a position under a cabinet level official? I haven’t had time to research it, but it seems unusual. Geithner is an idiot to have accepted this situation. From a pure bureaucratic point of view, it can only undermine his position. I hope she ends up pushing him out.”

      FDR did it all the time, look at some of the posts Harry Hopkins occupied at various times between 1933 and about 1939.

  9. TarheelDem says:

    The key activities of progressives need to be, as bmaz has already started to do, monitoring the implementation of the law, watching for the draft regulations when they come out and for structural stuff that must be reported in the Federal Register, and taking the opportunity to comment intelligently when public comments are requested. The regulation “promulgation” process requires a public comment period before final regulations are issued. You can bet the industry will be weighing in during this period. We should, with the help of some folks knowledgeable in this area, act as a counterweight to the industry through the public comments.

    We know Warren can throw elbows; she did in TARP oversight, in testimony about this bill, and no doubt behind the scenes. I don’t expect her to stop just because she is in the presence of Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Rahm Emmanuel, and Barack Obama. She gets to set up the agency supervise the writing of the regulations and the turnover to the Fed, have a strong voice in the selection of the administrator to run the day-to-day operations of the agency. Then in late 2011 most likely, she gets to return to Harvard, or run for the Senate, or be appointed to the Board of Governors of the Fed (which has oversight over the CFPB).

    It can’t be a cynical move. Progressive votes are not going to deliver this election because of the geographical distribution and number of progressives. And folks who express their hope that she replaces Obama probably wouldn’t like her presidency either if she actually were elected.

    Damn, it’s hard to get Democrats in Congress to act like winners or to get progressives to acknowledge that there is some good news.

    • sapphirebulletsofpurelove says:

      It can’t be a cynical move.

      Now who’s making assumptions? Just like Dems might not take a beating at the polls in November (I ceded that possiblity on the other thread), this very well might be a cynical move.

      • sapphirebulletsofpurelove says:

        And while on the topic-there seems to be an element of red herring to all this as well.

        It seems to me that we’re expected to believe is that the Assistant to the President position somehow makes her authority in regards to the CFPB proof against any interference from Geithner. Eye on the ball: whatever the assistantship means (I think it means what it did for Volcker, but whatever) it is exclusive from her role at the CFPB, where ultimate authority resides with Secretary of the Treasury until a permanent director is nominated/appointed.

            • emptywheel says:

              It has been said of Warren that at times when Timmeh and others were deep sixing the CFPB, she would appeal to Obama for a direct meeting and at that successfully rebut Timmeh’s (and Summers’) arguments. If that’s right, then the reason Summers wasn’t able to nix the CFPB is bc Warren was repeatedly successful at getting face time w/Obama.

              The Assistant to the President title is an understanding that she will continue to have the ability to get a face to face meeting with him when she deems necessary. While that all seems very technical, with just about any President, it gives the bearer a key tool in bureaucratic fights: the ability to make the case for your argument in person.

        • bobschacht says:

          “Ultimate authority” resides with the President, and the president in his announcement today spelled out what he expects Warren to do, and the powers he has vested in her. Like I said above, we’ll just have to see how this delicate little dance with Geithner works itself out.

          Warren should be able to work out most of the small stuff with Geithner, but she can bring the big stuff to Obama if Geithner blocks her efforts. Obviously, she can’t abuse that privilege. And Geithner can’t abuse his “supervisory” authority, or he could get busted, too.

          Bob in AZ

  10. eCAHNomics says:

    Notice how O called her by her first name and Geithner by his title? And how her title, ‘Assistant,’ sounds demeaning if you call her by it? Not too subtle or anything.

  11. econobuzz says:

    The fundamental error that some are making here is assuming that Warren can be the same person on the inside as she was on the outside. She can’t be. It has nothing to do with her effectiveness or integrity. Until you’ve been in that situation — asked by a president or cabinet member to be part of the team — you can’t fully understand the constraints.

  12. JamesJoyce says:

    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Americans have needed protection from abusive corporations for decades. Corporate’s money has warped the political process to obliterate the rights of individuals under the color of law. Economic segregation regardless of race has replaced “Jim Crow,” when the due process rights of state based “corporations” engaged in interstate commerce are protected over the rights of individuals and specific laws, prohibitions designed to preclude such mandated servile business relationships rendering the individual subordinate, are not litigated and conveniently ignored.

  13. OldFatGuy says:

    I’m having a hard time understanding what’s going on with the liberal/progressive community.

    It’s no wonder we never get what we want. Because they know they get our votes no matter what, and they know all they have to do is come up with some sort of BS that appears to give us what we want and we can’t wait to suddenly make nice and say think you.

    Bottom line is we wanted Warren to run the agency. Warren is NOT going to run the agency. But we’re ok with that now because….. we can’t expect much from this administration?????

    Sorry, call me nagative, cynical, asshole, or whatever. I believe we fight for what we want and we don’t let them get away with half assed measures and then give them praise or else all we’re EVER going to get is half assed measures.

    Sorry if my negativity is unwanted, but I’m NOT celebrating this in any way, fashion, or form because IMO if they really wanted to give her authority in this new agency, they would’ve nominated her, temp appointed her, and/or recessed appointed her.


    • oldhippiejan says:

      We’re all supposed to have forgotten the health care fiasco and dash off to the polls come November.

      Agreed. No celebration warranted.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think your negativity is perfectly justifiable.

      I don’t think we KNOW whether Warren will run the agency or not (though bmaz will argue that it would be impossible to get her confirmed at this point, and he may be right).

      But we ALSO didn’t want them to wait for her to lead it until Chris Dodd tried to scotch the nomination. We wanted O to use the authority written into the law to get someone in right away. And we did get that.

    • cbl2 says:

      you are not being negative and you are not being shrill

      no one’s asked, but I’m of a mind that had Gibbs not publicly whined about the professional left getting drug tested, I doubt this thread would have ever existed

    • masaccio says:

      What did Warren want? She knows she is in a position of strength, the boyz club has failed the nation and everyone knows it. They were wrong about the deregulation strategy, wrong about Lehman, wrong about the seriousness of the recession, and most of all, totally oblivious to the housing bubble and the earlier dot com bubble.

      Whatever the name of her position, if she walks, these guys are toast and they know it and so does she.

      I’m hopeful she chose this and is in fact ready to move this forward on her terms.

    • Mason says:

      Sorry if my negativity is unwanted, but I’m NOT celebrating this in any way, fashion, or form because IMO if they really wanted to give her authority in this new agency, they would’ve nominated her, temp appointed her, and/or recessed appointed her.

      Have you considered the possibility that she doesn’t want to be Director of the agency? Maybe she prefers teaching to the 24/7 insanity and infighting in the village, but the CFPB is her baby and she wants the opportunity to set it up, get it running, and perhaps even choose the first director.

      Then again, you could be right and she might have been promised the Sun, Moon, and all of the stars only to suddenly find herself alone within a cone of silence in an empty office next to the janitor’s closet without a working phone.

      I’m going to wait and see, but for the moment I’m pleased as punch, as Hubert Horatio Humphrey used to say.

      I’d also like to see her primary Obama and become the first woman and 45th President of the United States.

      Good luck and best wishes, Elizabeth!

      EDIT: Situation Peachy Keen (SPK).

      • reddflagg says:

        I’m with OFG, are progressives somehow inherently gullible? All this pack of bastards has done for two years is to shit all over us and here we are back to falling for hope-a-dope. Trust only actions, believe it when you see it, they have used up all of their progressive privileges.

        • Mason says:

          Trust only actions, believe it when you see it, they have used up all of their progressive privileges.

          I feel the same way and I intend to approach this appointment with that show-me mentality. All I’m saying is this is a giant step in the right direction and I lack sufficient information to know whether she is settling for something less than she wanted. Rather than run the water, fill the tub, and reach for the strait razor, I’ve the whisper of a smile on my face and cautiously optimistic hoping for good things.

          Like I said, SPK.

          I’ll be screaming for Obama’s resignation, if she was promised the Sun, Moon, and all of the stars only to suddenly find herself alone within a cone of silence in an empty office next to the janitor’s closet without a working phone.

          She says she’s happy with the deal, so I am too.

          Unless or until it goes sideways and becomes a Volcker type situation.

    • lasthonestperson says:

      The other large, left-of-center websites, including progressive ones, were even worse than this blog., democraticunderground, and Bold Progressives flat out lied and loudly proclaimed that Obama had appointed Warren to “head” the agency, both on their homepages and in emails to their memberships. Daily Kos said she was appointed to “lead” the agency, later admitting it was an interim position. No retractions have been issued by any of these sites.

      So much coordinated disinformation would not have arisen spontaneously. I’m guessing the owners of these sites were told by a top WH staffer that under a Palin gov’t they would be shut down, and perhaps given hints that the WH would not feel like continuing its support for ‘net neutrality if it became a threat to Obama’s re-election. Then they were directed in what way proper gratitude to our dear leader was to be shown.

  14. eagleye says:

    I learned recently that there isn’t necessarily a connection between the National Chamber of Commerce and our local Chambers. Membership in the national organization is optional, and the Chamber here in my small town in upstate New York is run by a smart progressive guy, and is not part of the godawful national Chamber. I actually think the local chapters should come up with a new name and put some distance between themselves and the jerks at the National Chamber.

    • Prairie Sunshine says:

      The Chamber in Fargo imported a rightwinger from AZ whose main credential seems to be working for conservative politicians. Sure ’nuff, he’s created a new “Voices of Vision” program to launch with Ollie North.

      Some vision. Nightmare, more like.

      Oh, and the Chamber and the local news rag totally airbrushed out Ollie’s years of fear’n’hatemongering on rightwing radio and that little peccadillo called Iran-Contra. The ooze is spreading in the local Chambers, too.

      • geminorange says:

        There was an article in the Los Angeles Times today about two bills going to the Governor to make the penalties for wage theft (paying below minimum wage, an example is $3.50 per hour, and not paying at all).

        The quote from the California Chamber of Commerce is the sterotypical “this is a job killer”. To the California Chamber, everything that isn’t a worker killer is a job killer.

        • Prairie Sunshine says:

          After I wrote the comment you replied to I wrote a LTE and copied into my blog and a Seminal diary.

          The radical cancer within the Republican Party is now metastasized and is rampaging through every part of their body politic, including their usual allies like local Chambers.

          We underestimate this at our peril.

  15. sapphirebulletsofpurelove says:

    I also suspect (though don’t know for a fact) that she negotiated the Assistant to the President position as protection against anything Timmeh and Larry Summers might try.

    Alright, I’ll bite: I keep reading this but have no idea what it means. Can someone explain to me how that will work? Considering Geithner and Summers hold their positions at the pleasure of the administration?

    For the White House, not only do they need to fulfill whatever promises they made to Warren.

    Since when does this admin give a good goddamn about fulfilling promises?

    Progressives finally won something from this Administration. Maybe.

    I’ll believe it when I see it, not before.

    • emptywheel says:

      It implies direct access to the President. He’s got a lot of “Special Assistants” but the title “Assistant to the President” is DC speak for a certain kind of access.

      Which has always been the problem in the economic realm–that Summers won’t let people access Obama directly. We’ll see whether Warren gets the access teh name implies.

      • sapphirebulletsofpurelove says:

        Understood. Still…

        but the title “Assistant to the President” is DC speak for a certain kind of access.

        I guess it would help if President Transparency would explain what, exactly, that translates to in plebe speak.

      • bobschacht says:

        What I heard is that the President has only about a dozen “Assistants to the President.” Per the Wikipedia:

        Senior staff within the Executive Office of the President have the title Assistant to the President, second-level staff have the title Deputy Assistant to the President, and third-level staff have the title Special Assistant to the President.

        That puts her in a pretty elite club of heavy hitters. I wonder who the others are? The Wikipedia article names them, but does not explicitly distinguish among the three levels; I don’t have the time to sort them out.

        Bob in AZ

        • emptywheel says:

          It includes Axe, Melody Barnes, Carol Browner, Bob Bauer, John Brennan, Rahm, Valerie Jarrett, Jim Messina, Phil Schiliro, and Larry Summers. [Update: oops, missed an obvious one: Robert “Professional Left” Gibbs]

          Less well known Assistants to the President are: Elizabeth Brown (who is staff secretary), Stephanie Cutter, Thomas Donilon (odds on favorite to replace Rahm), Jonathan Favreau, Patrick Gaspard, Bradley Kiley, Christopher Lu, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Howard Pfeiffer, Peter Rouse, Susan Sher, Mona Sutphen.

          I actually thought that Nancy Ann Deparle (his “heath care czar”) was one, but she’s not (she’s Counselor but not Assistant).

            • emptywheel says:


              I got all this from this the salary list, which you can download in Excel form. I didn’t double check my work on it (though it’s a close to complete list), and it was accurate as of June or July.

          • WilliamOckham says:

            My post crossed in the ether with yours, but I think this list pretty much supports my point about the title being given to cronies or “Get Stuff Done” types. I don’t recognize all those names, but the cronies are obvious and I’d be willing to bet your lesser known names are about a 50-50 split.

            I think that CoS, Deputy CoS, and head of the NEC (Summers) are Asst to the President by tradition.

            • emptywheel says:

              Agree on both counts–though I’m entirely positive that NEC is traditional, and under Bush there were multiple DepCOS’s, weren’t there, for that period when Karl was in charge of policy in addition to politics (not like he couldn’t bust into the Oval any time he wanted, anyway).

              • WilliamOckham says:

                One more thing. Here’s her title from the official press release:

                Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

                Assistant to the President is usually followed by “for [some policy or functional area]”.

                The only recent “Assistant to the President and ” where what comes next isn’t a normal WH job (like Press Secretary or Nat. Sec. Advisor) that I can find is the Bush administration’s War Czar position (Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan). I’ll do some more research tonight, but I really think Warren’s position is unique. Unique positions are very dangerous.

                • bmaz says:

                  General Lute? Heh, his appointment was about the last time he was ever heard from. Warren’s position does look pretty unique; whether that is good or bad, only time will tell.

  16. donbacon says:

    Warren’s heart is in the right place but she entirely blames corporations for consumer foibles including maintaining credit card balances and mortgaging a house to the max. Increasing the size of small print, scheduled now to begin next July, but don’t hold your breath, will hardly solve those wrong practices. A Consumer Education Bureau would be more appropriate.

    • emptywheel says:

      You clearly know very little about Warren’s history. Even in this piece for today’s announcement, she talks about the things consumers need to do.

      An example?

      Borrowing money to buy a home – it can be a good investment. Borrowing money to buy a car so that you can get to work. Borrowing money to deal with an emergency, a serious medical problem. Those are all investments in effect in your future. But borrowing money because you can’t live on your current salary, assuming you are not under some kind of emergency situation, this is your day-to-day, if you are rolling credit card debt over month to month to month, and this is your real job, this is your real life, you do have a serious problem. Because people have got to bring their expenses and their income into line with each other. And so, that is where I focus on debt particularly with individual families. This is the part you need to see. There is a red light flashing if you’re carrying debt for reasons other than investment.

      And one of her books is basically a consumer education book.

      • donbacon says:

        “You clearly know very little about Warren’s history. Even in this piece for today’s announcement, she talks about the things consumers need to do.”
        Obviously your quote (which followed) is not from Warren’s history and is obviously an entirely new approach meant to quiet Warren’s critics who heard MoveOn say that Warren would hold Wall Street’s feet to the fire.

        You clearly are not aware of her blogging on TPMCafe where she never, ever broached the subject of consumer education but always blamed corporations, who actually aren’t to blame when people max out their credit cards and their mortgages.

        Since she was talking that way I even went a little overboard (how rare!) and posted that people who run max credit card balances ought to wear a Kick Me I’m Stupid sign on their backs. That got a reaction from the partisan crowd, you betcha.

        Hey, this new government bureau is apparently called the Consumer Financial Protection Board. That certainly doesn’t imply any education function, now does it. If she’s going to focus on education then why the delay? And why did MoveOn say that Warren could hold Wall Street’s feet to the fire? Why this headline I just picked off HuffPost?

        Obama Names Warren A Special Adviser, Says She Will Ensure Consumer Protection Bureau Ends Abusive Practices

        Actually her principal goal is not consumer education but forcing corporations to become more consumer-friendly by writing regulation to control the size of the type in their printed material, etc., and you know it.

        • emptywheel says:

          You made an assertion that she blames corporations entirely. I pointed out that she wrote a book to help consumers take control of their own actions and in teh last day or so repeated that consumers have to get their own lives in order. Therefore, your assertion that she “entirely blames corporations for consumer foibles including maintaining credit card balances and mortgaging a house to the max” is patently false and ignores her extensive work, notably that specifically addressing credit card debt and buying too big a house.

    • sapphirebulletsofpurelove says:

      Red herring alert!!!

      The CFPB is no way meant to make good fiscal decisions for people. Flatly stated, private individuals prudence or otherwise is not a policy matter.

      The CFPB is meant to help curtail those practices of financial institutions that deceive people. But I guess you’d argue there’s no such thing.

  17. papau says:

    “This maneuver is an affront to the pledge of transparency and consumer protection that’s purported to be the focus of this new agency,” said David Hirschmann, president of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which strongly opposed the creation of the agency. “This may be a calculated move to help fire up some groups ahead of the midterm elections, but it undermines the credibility and effectiveness of this already politicized new agency from Day One.” (from LAT)…..Chamber CEO David Hirschmann says avoiding the Senate confirmation process is “an affront to the pledge of transparency and consumer protection that’s purported to be the focus of this new agency.” (FROM TWITTER)(I like the title change between media sources).

    Hard to see how Chamber comment was not be expected, or how it was a reaction to the actual situation.

    I hope it is real – I believe Warren believes it is real – I do not.

  18. econobuzz says:

    There are very powerful forces at the Fed, Treasury, TBTF Banks, insurance companies — did I mention them all? — arrayed against this “Bureau” ever becoming anything effective. In fact, the very same forces that neutered FinReg with the help of the three stooges: Barry, Larry, and Timmy.

    If you think that making Warren an Assistant to the President will save this “Bureau,” I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes, and I agree completely with this. Whatever real good comes out of this will likely have Warren’s fingerprints on it. That really is very positive.

        But, after reading through the bill a couple of nights ago, and seeing what could have been if Warren, or someone like her was immediately put in place as the formal head with all the attendant powers (and, again, until you read the bill, you have no idea just how many powers there would be and how they are removed from Geithner and Treasury’s clutches the second there is a formal head) it is just hard for me to muster any thanks to Obama for his the meager crumbs he has graciously from on high allowed us to have. And then he has the fucking temerity to condescendingly castigate progressives for not being more thankful for “all he has done” – while he is at a $30,000 a plate dinner with high roller MOTUs in Greenwich Connecticut last night.

  19. leab says:

    When are progressives going to stop subjecting themselves to political battered syndrome from this administration? While claiming to give something, they have given nothing, and then chastise us for not being grateful they have given half a loaf, maybe.

    Team Obama can do whatever they want. Clearly, they did not want to make Warren head of this Department. They are playing us for votes in Nov. and we deserve better. Too bad more of you don’t think so.

  20. Mason says:

    Imagine this scenario.

    Obama decides not to seek a second term.

    Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren announce their respective candidacies to become the 45th President of the United States and the first woman president.

    Elizabeth Warren has my vote.

  21. Mason says:

    Imagine this scenario, bmaz.

    You’re the Chef preparing the dinner for the MOTUs at the $30 K/Plate dinner. How about some Gulf shrimp in special Corexit sauce for an appetizer and Chicken Cordon e-coli for the main course and sorbet et salmonella for dessert.

    Then beat your ass out of Dodge before the authorities come a looking for you.

  22. WilliamOckham says:

    I have a couple of quick points. By way of background, I have a graduate education in political infighting, er… I studied for a Masters of Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas. Yeah, that’s pretty much what it sounds like…

    In Washington circles, Assistant to the President is, in the words of Joe Biden, a big, f***ing deal. People with that title are generally assumed to have the ear of the President and in a direct way that most cabinet secretaries don’t. Cabinet secretaries are very busy trying to control their departments. They have lots of meetings with underlings, etc. Assistant to the President is a much more personal connection. Outside the Chief of Staff, Assistant to the President is by far the most coveted title in the EOP (also the highest paid). A typical Assistant to the President is a personal crony of the President (but not always, sometimes this title is given to someone who has mastered the ins and outs of organizing actual work). If you could find them, it would be interesting to measure the typical distance between the Oval Office and the offices of assistants to the President. Usually they will be very close. Scooter’s joint appointment was pretty weird because it showed how much Cheney dominated Bush in foreign policy.

    This appointment for Warren seems so odd to me that I think it will either end up being a sham (let’s call that the Bmaz position) or it means that “Timmeh is fighting for his life”. I have no idea which it is or if it means something else entirely. I have, however, learned not to bet against Bmaz when he takes the pessimist view of Obama.

  23. Sara says:

    Well, I am against selecting the next Democrat for President until 2015, and then I want to look at the times and the available list.

    I think Warren has the moxie to finish the design and ramp up of the Bureau, and suspect that will take her between six months and a year. I suspect much of the anti-Warren stuff was coming from Chris Dodd, who wanted to name the first director from out of his harem, and then use that connection to sell himself as a super lobbyist after he leaves the Senate next January. I doubt if Schumer was all that happy with it either, and I think Obama did a decent job of avoiding a fight that would have won consumers and him absolutely nothing.

    I hope she does return to MA sometime in 2011 and establish herself to run for the Senate. If I lived in MA, I would be thinking about how to inform the Democratic Base about her so as to set up things for what will probably be a serious primary for the slot to run against Scott Brown. Aside from Consumer Affairs and Finance, I know nothing at all about her, and how she would work with the Democratic MA Electorate. Can she run a better campaign than Coakley? Can she raise money? What are her connections to local party types in MA? You know, in MA you have to know something about deep sea fishing and aquaculture. Does she know anything about all that? Just a few practical questions for anyone considering running for office against “red truck” Brown.

    What’s really missing is a broad based Consumer Movement totally outside the Obama and Party System, that is positioned to be systematic and raise issues as all this moves along. Movement needs to be in every State, much as Chamber of Commerce is set up, perhaps sharing some research and development assets at the national level, but mostly devoted to building pressure for Consumer matters at the State Level where it can impact Senators and Congress types. In many ways this was what Warren was doing when she blogged at TPM during the Bush years.

    Before you nominate her for President, let’s see if she can win a MA election.

    • bmaz says:

      Why bother? Obama never won a contested election. And, no, beating Armstrong Williams does not count. I very much like Obama as a person, and he was a wonderful candidate in 2008; as a President and party leader, however, I think he has been disappointing at best. I would take someone like Warren, who actually seems to have the personal courage of her purported and stated convictions, in a fraction of a heartbeat over Obama, who has been the most disappointing, from what he promised and claimed to stand for, of any politician in my now rather long lifetime. And I think broad swaths of regular people, the so called “real Americans”, from all walks and ideologies in life, would flock to someone they thought was actually honest and sympathetic to their causes. And that sure as hell is not Barack Obama.

      • Sara says:

        “Obama never won a contested election.”

        Oh dear, what was that six month set-too about in 2008, I seem to remember a contest with John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton, that just went on and on and on. As someone who voted for Hillary at caucus, came home and looked at the caucus results on my DFL website reporting state results that night, and decided to switch — I do remember the matter. As someone who knows the districts and precincts least likely to support an Obama style candidate, I had to have an extra dram of brandy to help refashion my brain as to who would likely be his supporters.

        Before he ran, we knew he could raise money he would need, we knew he had what he needed from his own state party to make the campaign. Illinois Politics is not chicken shit, and most real contests are not necessarily decided in pure contested elections. The Machine keeps its hand in. (Not like Minnesota). He had no big time losses, because the machine keeps the contests symbolic. He learned his lesson when he went against the machine and took on Bobby Rush. I don’t know any such thing about Warren — I like her, but for Senate or something more, I’d like to see her cards on something other than her signature issue. I think she has promise.

  24. Stephen says:

    Let us remember this famous saying, though somewhat botched, “fool me once, shame on- shame on you. Fool me-you can’t get fooled again” and lets keep the tragic tale of Dawn Johnsen in mind.

    • emptywheel says:

      I am quite certain that Liz Warren took the right lessons from the Dawn Johnsen fiasco. It’s one of the reasons that I suspect the Assistant to the President title was included in the deal.

      • bmaz says:

        Agreed. But I bet Obama/Axe/Plouffe (and I understand Plouffe is starting to gear back up) saw more than a little ability to trade on that too.

  25. lasthonestperson says:

    All the people supporting Warren the past couple of months did NOT make it clear that she was the only acceptable person to liason the CFPB with the White House and Treasury. We made it clear that she was the only acceptable person to DIRECT the bureau. The middle class and anyone w/ a credit card and/or a mortgage will sorely miss the kind of determination she would have had to make the CFPB work for them. Not getting her as director is a LOSS.