President Obama broke some news this weekend, while he and the fam were watching ladies' soccer games. He chose to nominate Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was created in last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. But the interesting thing about this Cordray fellow is that his name isn't "Elizabeth Warren." What gives?
While Elizabeth Warren, the consumer advocate, Harvard law professor, former head of the TARP oversight committee and White House aide who was tasked with setting up the CFPB — the creation of which was her idea in the first place — was the obvious first choice to be its first director, Obama chose to avoid this battle. Republicans hate her. Hate hate hate! Good lord, remember how much they hated her that time? They hate her like the dickens. And while any nominee will be lucky to make it through the Senate confirmation process without 47 individual Republican filibusters, a non-Elizabeth Warren does stand a better chance — and would make a recess appointment go down more easily.
Cordray's resume is well suited to the task at the CFPB, an agency responsible for policing consumer products like mortgages and credit cards. As Ohio's top law enforcement official, he led the charge in a class action lawsuit on behalf of public pension funds against Bank of America over losses incurred after the acquisition of Merrill Lynch. After years in Ohio politics - and a few failed attempts to reach Washington by way of Congress - Cordray, 52, landed a job as assistant director for enforcement at the CFPB after losing re-election last November. "Richard Cordray has spent his career advocating for middle class families," Obama said," and looking out for ordinary people in our financial system."
As for Warren, the speculation now turns to whether she'll run for Scott Brown's Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012. Democrats are crossing their fingers! But is this really a good use of her time, especially when victory is hardly a sure thing? It would be a shame to see the nation's top populist voice railing against the excesses of the financial services industry just become another back-bench junior senator with little power to do anything. The better alternative would be for her to set up a national advocacy group to promote her views and, most importantly, get her on TV everyday to speak clearly and candidly. The whole point of Elizabeth Warren is to let Elizabeth Warren speak to the public about the financial services industry! So, she should do that.
[Image via AP]