When Paul Volcker was first appointed chairman of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, he really didn't expect to have much influence.
Sondra Gotlieb, Volcker's friend and associate from when they both lived in Washington during the Reagan presidency, says that the former Fed chair told her that the position was a public relations stunt: "I'm just a photo op," Volcker told her. "All they wanted was my picture for the press."
And for more than a year, Volcker's assessment seemed about right. "Everyone knew he didn't have the president's ear no matter what his title was," Gotlieb writes.
But all that seems to have changed in the past several weeks, after the president, as part of his financial reform package, proposed that Congress adopt a key reform measure that Volcker has long championed. The "Volcker Rule," as the new regulation is known, would prohibit commercial banks from owning or investing in hedge funds, private equity funds or "proprietary trading" operations.
Volcker, who stands a towering 6'7" tall, was at the president's side during the announcement. But whether his ideas for reform will be enacted into law is still unclear: Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has indicated that he may not amend the Senate's reform package to include the rule, saying the administration is "getting precariously close" to asking for too much.