If you don’t recognize the name or face of Elizabeth Warren, then you’ve not been watching the news the last few months. (And these days, who can blame you?)
In November of 2008, author and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren agreed to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel of TARP, which is the acronym for Troubled (certainly not Toxic, oh no never that, wink wink) Assets Relief Program.
Since then, Warren has been popping up all over the place: On CNN’s Lou Dobbs, Dateline NBC, HD Net’s Dan Rather Reports and – the most coveted spot on television – opposite comedian Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.
On Dan Rather Reports, Warren gave a simple “no” to the question: Do we know what happened to the half of the stimulus that has already been distributed? Do we know where or to whom the money has gone? No, Warren said. Just no. And then she shook her head for emphasis.
Warren’s directness caught me a little off guard. From the Washington crowd I’m used to answers that begin with something like: Under the provisions set out by the blah blah blah…
She was equally focused on Dateline NBC’s Inside the Financial Fiasco. Warren said our financial system was “based on a scam. This is about buying toasters that, at the moment they were sold, the person selling them knew these things are going to explode.”
Asked what question she’d like to pose to CEOs, Warren replied, “So what do you plan to do now? Here we are. You’re rich. But what are the rest of us going to do?”
The YouTube channel oversightpanel serves up a few Warren interviews along with a video of the March 19, 2009 COP hearing titled Learning from the Past – Lessons from the Banking Crises of the 20th Century. After calling the meeting to order, Warren expressed deep disappointment that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did not make time to attend. (Meanwhile, there sat Sweden’s Director General Bo Lundgren, who’d traveled halfway around the world.)
As of today, Warren’s facebook group boasts 132 fans, including me. On the cyber-graffiti wall, one can read concise votes of confidence – Elizabeth Warren for Treasury Secretary – along with longer, more emotional declarations:
In this age of vacuous celebrity worship, Dr. Warren is one of the people I talk about with my nieces and nephews. I want them to be exposed to people who have the curiosity and motivation to educate themselves, the self awareness to develop their convictions based on the facts, the morality not to sell out, the courage to stand up against the system, the strength to keep standing, and the charisma and insight to convey that to other people. I want my nieces to have strong and intelligent women as their role models. She is one of mine.
Wow. We’re getting into Mr. Smith Goes to Washington territory here. And to that I say: It’s about time!
Last week, Lou Dobbs observed that all six of the leading candidates for the Supreme Court were women. To which CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin replied: “More than half the law students in the United States are now women. Almost half the lawyers in the United States are women. There’s only one out of nine justices on the Supreme Court who are women. I think President Obama, who believes in diversity, thinks it’s time to even out the balance a little bit more.”
As Dobbs began bemoaning the “death of meritocracy” on the court, Toobin pointed out that to Obama “diversity is not the opposite of meritocracy.” Heh. Take that, Lou.
Seven years ago, I had to select a surgeon for a palpable lump in my breast. I passed over the touchy-feely doctor with the local cult following. Instead, I chose the doctor who berated me for failing to bring along films from previous mammograms.
“No,” he said, “I can’t just go by the radiologist report. Radiologists make mistakes. I need you – AND the films – both here in my office at the same time. I’m sorry that wasn’t made clear to you when you made the appointment.”
At the time, I was sick with a cold. I was still bald from recent chemo for ovarian cancer. And I was thinking of my grandmother, who was 800 miles away and dying. The last thing I needed was to drive all over town picking up eight years worth of mammograms. But, with my health on the line, I got in the car and muttered: OK buster. You want films? I’ll bury you in films.
By my next visit, his mood had brightened considerably. Holding several x-rays up to the light, he looked like a kid on Christmas morning.
That’s my kind of doctor. Elizabeth Warren comes across as a bit more congenial, but I recognize the firm jaw. Not only have I seen it in my doctor, all my life I saw it in my grandmother, a woman who once took on the Texas state legislature, and won.
There comes a time for resoluteness. If a leader can’t withstand uncomfortable questions from the press or politicians, how can she stand her ground against lobbyists and the many other minions of the oligarchy? To quote Alec Baldwin shouting at a cowering Alan Arkin in Glengarry Glen Ross, “You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?”
I think Elizabeth Warren can take it, Mr. President. Hire her.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2009]