Felix Salmon

Appointing Warren

By Felix Salmon
September 16, 2010

It’s weirdly depressing watching everybody scramble around trying to work out what on earth the kindasorta appointment of Elizabeth Warren to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau actually means. As Ryan Chittum notes, the WSJ certainly can’t make up its mind: David Weidner says that Warren is being sidelined and that “someone else will make the final decisions”; the paper’s news story, by contrast, says that she will have broad powers.

She will recruit staff for the agency, set the policy mission and serve as the recognizable public face for a new agency the administration wants to promote.

The big outstanding question is whether the White House intends to nominate Warren to lead the CFPB at some point in the future, before Obama’s first term is out. Jim Pethokoukis explains today that she’s probably here to stay:

There is an old management rule: Never hire someone you can’t fire. Obama violated this rule by picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. And he just did it again.

But weirdly, in exactly the same post, Jim says “it now seems unlikely that either Warren or Michael Barr will end up running this new agency”. It’s very hard indeed to reconcile the two positions: once the director is named, Warren’s job disappears. So either Warren is fired, or else she becomes the director. I can’t see any other outcome.

Ezra Klein, too, is trying desperately to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time: this appointment “in no way prevents a permanent nomination from occurring at some later date”, he says, while at the same time “there’s no way Senate Republicans will ever let her have the permanent spot”.

My feeling is that once Warren has had this job for a while, and proven that she isn’t the devil incarnate, it might be possible to ratify her in the director’s position on a permanent basis. I certainly hope that’s what ends up happening. Probably both she and the White House want to keep their options open for the time being. But the communication around all this has been very messy, and there’s no sign that anything is going to get cleared up any time soon.

5 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

How has this woman become so polarizing in gov’t (and media circles) when it seems like she’s the choice the majority of American would love to see hold the office? It’s about time someone in office made it clear (and backed up the talk) that they are out defending the people’s rights… the more gov’t and business bemoan her, the more likely it is that she really is the genuine article and should be holding the directorship! And it’s hard to take Pethokoukis seriously when he continually refers to Larry Kudlow as ‘the Great One’ and has one and only one answer to solve deficit issues: tax breaks for the rich and business ugh!

Posted by CDN_finance | Report as abusive

At first I waited for Obama to evidence canny poker skills but I was disappointed. Now? Perhaps he is putting Warren onto the bench so he can bring her out guns blazing in an election blitz. Ah, if only he had the nerve. I love her.

Posted by RealityPivots | Report as abusive

People are overthinking this. As part of prepping for midterms & fundraising, lots of supporters wanted to see him appoint Warren. So he did – for this position. It doesn’t help him with the confirmation problem later, and I bet he doesn’t know what he’ll do about that. But for now it helps with elections and fundraising (and she’s right for the job of course – that goes without saying).

Posted by milesk | Report as abusive

I can’t get out of my head the image of Bush asking Dick Cheney to find a VP for him. That said, I do think this is a way a of getting Warren involved without giving her the top job.

Posted by GingerYellow | Report as abusive

Elizabeth Warren is the right man for the job. I mean that in the best possible way. Every time I see her on TV I think to myself, “Jesus, this woman is talking straight and she’s not waffling or using mealy-mouthed code words!” She’s clearly not a politician. She doesn’t seem beholden to anyone. And she so clearly doesn’t give a whit about her image. If she ran for president she’d have my vote.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

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