A colleague, catching me in need of something to break me out of my post-Washington Redskins funk, tipped me off yesterday to the recent natterings of the Washington Post editorial board, on the matter of Elizabeth Warren's recent appointment.
Now, I don't expect much from the Post's editors on this news. Anything that doesn't reek of bipartisanship confuses and enrages them. The whole idea of consumer protection touches on people -- that is, Americans living outside of the Beltway -- whom they historically do not relate to very well. And, let's remember, this was the institution that hatched a plan to raise revenue by throwing a bunch of "salons" with lobbyists, so it's safe to say that they have all manner of industries, from which consumers desire protection, whispering in their ear.
Still, as my colleague put it, this piece was filled with "contradictions and twisted nonsense." And, boy howdy, it sure is! The editors spent half their time demonstrating that they don't know anything about the Dodd-Frank bill that facilitated the appointment in the first place, and the other half of the editorial demonstrating that they do not know what they already don't know well enough to say anything cogent about it. Ripe for a fisking? Aye, verily, ripe for a fisking. Let's see if I get them all:
The piece begins with the editors stating that they have "qualms" with Warren. Why is that? Well, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection will have a big budget and regulatory power. But so do lots of agencies! But this particular outfit was Warren's "brainchild!" Which, doesn't seem that bad to me, but continue. They note that the agency "emerged from Warren's zealous campaign against what she called the "tricks and traps" of the banking industry, which has made her a hero to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party." I imagine it makes just about everyone who had been tricked and trapped partial to Warren, and her idea as well. They conclude their first paragraph, thusly:
Like many such activists, however, Ms. Warren can be simplistic and hyperbolic.
To which I say, "Sayeth the editors, simplistically and hyperbolically!" because up to now, they've not presented any evidence that would give them the right to make such a claim. The piece continues:
Certainly, her dim view of the banking industry is fully reciprocated -- and, egged on by Wall Street...
Huh? You realize that by attesting to the fact that Warren's take on Wall Street is well-founded, and that it is "egged on" by their behavior and practices, it sort of undercuts your original premise that she is being hyperbolic, don't you?
Republicans probably would have filibustered her nomination to be the bureau's first director. That, in our view, would have been unjustified.
Well, you had, in fact, just justified it, at the end of your first paragraph. But then you recanted the justification at the beginning of your second paragraph. I have to say, I sort of feel for the filibustering GOP, if they're actually looking to the editors for guidance.
Ideologically contentious as she may be, Ms. Warren is qualified for the job.
Wow. You guys really should just take one stand on the matter and stay there!
In an ideal world, as opposed to the polarized Washington in which we actually live, she would have received at least a prompt hearing and a floor vote.
I don't know if the Washington Post is up on current events, many of which have been chronicled in a paper called the Washington Post, but the lack of "prompt hearings" and "floor votes" have nothing at all to do with "polarization," and everything to do with the fact that the GOP has adopted as its strategy the practice of delaying those hearings and votes as part of an overall obstructionist agenda.
An example: just last week, the GOP ended a 400-day long obstruction of Jane Stranch, who was nominated for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. After 400 days of delay, she was confirmed 71-21! Ian Millhiser adds:
It seems odd that a nominee who received such a lopsided 71-21 vote would be the victim of obstructionism, but these kinds of mindless objections to Obama's nominees have become commonplace. Conservatives filibustered Judge Barbara Milano Keenan's nomination to the Fourth Circuit for months. She was then confirmed 99-0. Judge Denny Chin was filibustered for months, only to be confirmed 98-0. And dozens of nominations continue to languish, despite no serious opposition.
These eventual, lopsided votes tell the story: they were just holding up these nomination, for the hell of it! But I guess the world in which Senators behave professionally and execute the duties of their office with dignity is now the Platonic ideal, something mankind should never actually hope to achieve!
Still, Republicans would have been within their rights.
To do what? Pointlessly obstruct nominees for kicks? They certainly have the right to do that, according to the letter of the law, but it's certainly a violation of the spirit of the law. Besides, according to the same set of laws, the White House has a right to end these blockades through whatever legal means they have at their disposal.
Can the same be said for Mr. Obama's end run of the Senate confirmation process?
Okay, I need the editors of the Washington Post to pay attention to this, because I weary of repeating it. The process that has been used to install Warren is in the damn law, you idiots. A law passed by both Houses of Congress, enacted by the president's signature. So the answer to the question is YES, THE SAME CAN BE SAID OF THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE PRESIDENT. And moreover -- and this is really, really important -- following the language of a law is NOT AN END RUN. It is a run, right up the middle of the law, right through the obstacles which the law has parted, like the Red Sea.
Senate confirmation of the bureau's director was one of the few checks Congress built into an office that otherwise will be very powerful and independent.
Yes, of course! IN AN "IDEAL WORLD," right? But Congress actually did apply their "check" when they granted the president the power to do exactly what he did! The matter was deliberated, and the law was passed. Everyone had a chance to register their objection!
Besides, the Congress was given the exclusive check on the power to declare war, too! Want to know how that worked out?
Nevertheless, the statute establishing the bureau gives Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner interim authority in the absence of a permanent director, at least until July 21 -- when the bureau officially absorbs and consolidates various federal agencies' consumer-protection functions. And, under the arrangement the president outlined, Ms. Warren will work for Mr. Geithner. Of course, she'll also be on the White House staff, reporting to the president -- as Mr. Geithner does.
Wait, wait. Hold up, Washington Post editors. You mean to tell me that you actually do understand what the law permitted in this instance? Did it not occur to you that these are precisely the sort of "facts" that should have clued you in to the fact that the entire premise of your editorial is, as they say, "bullshit?"
Mr. Obama would have been better off picking a more confirmable candidate, as some senators from his own party had urged.
TAKE IT TO THE CHORUS! In an "ideal world," right? When the "more confirmable candidate" is also going to end up getting obstructed, for years, what is the point? At some point, don't you have to get down to the task of governing? Especially when Congress has provided you with the explicit means to do so?
Even a recess appointment for Ms. Warren -- which would have lasted through 2011 -- would have been preferable in terms of sticking to constitutionally prescribed processes for filling federal offices.
But that would have been the "end run!" You would have actually preferred an "end run" recess appointment to following the law that Congress actually wrote? You are really, really confusing, Washington Post editors.
But either move would have infuriated progressives, who still dream of a full five-year term for Ms. Warren -- and whose support Mr. Obama needs in November.
What? Progressives would have been FINE with the recess appointment! Progressives cheered when the president made a slew of recess appointments back in March of this year. They would have dearly loved for Dawn Johnsen to have been appointed to the Office of Legal Counsel in that fashion.
That's just some stunning ignorance. It's like the editors got to the end of their piece, realized that they hadn't met their quota for false claims, and just crammed something stupid into the piece at the end.
For all intents and purposes, the president has created, and filled, a de facto directorship.
As the law enacted by Congress granted him the right to do! HISTORY'S GREATEST MONSTER.
This might have been in keeping with the letter of the laws, but not with their spirit.
You know what is in keeping with the letter of the laws, but not their spirit? The pointless obstruction of nominees that are preventing the "hearings" and "floor votes" of the "ideal world."
Also in keeping with the letter, but not the spirit of the law? THE TRICKS AND TRAPS IN THE FINE PRINT OF CREDIT CARD AGREEMENTS.
Washington Post, y'all just make this too easy!