Sen. Elizabeth Warren giggles like a girl sought after by the coolest boy in school when asked what she makes of the progressive push for her to “save” liberals from a feared “too-close-to-Wall-Street” presidential run by Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016.
But the “Aw shucks, me?” veneer shines with the polish of a practiced politician. Warren is imminently aware of the spotlight she’s under and fully cognizant of the fact that the message she sends will be as thoroughly dissected as the Fed chairman talking about the economy.
“My job is here in the Senate,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview, waving off the question, rooted to a chair in her Capitol Hill office with towering ceilings.
“I have been fighting for middle-class families for decades and I have a chance here to make a difference and that’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s what I’m focused on. That’s it,” she said, adding firmly, “If you need a ‘no,’ you’ve got the ‘no.’ “
In an environment where little legislation is moving on Capitol Hill, particularly in the financial-services/consumer-protection arena where she made her name, Warren is employing her celebrity stature and her Harvard Law assiduity to her benefit.
She set the tone early this year when she famously blasted regulators for treating too-big-to-fail institutions as “too big for trial” in her debut hearing at the Senate Banking Committee. The exchange became her first of many YouTube hits, drawing more than a million viewers in less than a week and simultaneously handing progressive groups a jackpot clip to build a campaign war chest.
Warren is among the least senior members of the Banking Committee, but her words unquestionably draw the most attention, so she takes advantage of that by sticking to pet issues that resonate well with voters and focusing like a laser beam where she sees an opportunity to nudge the debate.
“This is about using the tools to be effective,” she said. “There are many tools in the toolbox and I want to use every one of them to help level the playing field for working families.”
Although critics on the left and right privately lament that her rabble-rousing performance in hearings appears to be as much about steering outcomes as it is about immortalizing her firebrand reputation, aides on both sides of the aisle acknowledge she appears at least as much workhorse as show horse. She might get her five minutes of fame in sound bites at hearings, but she has the best attendance record of any of the members, including the chairman and ranking member, and routinely stays to the bitter end, long after the cameras have stopped rolling.
Warren also has the distinction of being a rare freshman who is the senior senator from her state. She knocked off incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., in November and then, when former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., resigned to become secretary of State in February, Warren jumped from junior to senior after less than a month in the Senate.
As the brainchild behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a former leader of the Congressional Oversight Panel formed in the wake of the controversial $700 billion financial-industry bailout known as TARP, and a former bankruptcy-law professor, she is clearly well-seasoned in financial policy.
Warren might not have any obvious single-handed successes to point to since she took office in January, but she has kept steady pressure on the left not to go soft on reining in Wall Street and has sought to hold those in power accountable.
Her efforts are credited with helping bring down the White House’s pursuit of Lawrence Summers for Federal Reserve Board chairman and cementing Richard Cordray’s confirmation as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without letting Republicans weaken the agency’s power.
“I pushed hard on this,” she said of the CFPB, “because it really matters to me and I’m glad a lot of people got involved.”
She was a vocal advocate for keeping student-loan interest rates low. She offered a bill that would tie such rates to the rates banks receive when borrowing from the Fed. The bill appeared intended to pick a fight about why big banks receive special government treatment.
Most notably, however, Warren is viewed as lighting a fire under regulators to demand meatier settlements with the financial industry. She points with pride to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s announcement in June that it would require institutions to admit wrongdoing in certain settlements.
“Regulators have a lot of discretion “¦ and it’s sort of always pushing in the same way, always pushing to see the rules weaken.”¦ It’s necessary to make sure there is pushback against that and that’s part of what I want to do from the Banking Committee,” Warren said.
“Those settlements only work if they are backed up by a credible threat that the government is willing and able to go to trial and that’s what this has done and we have seen the needle move this way.”
For now, Warren’s voice might be her mightiest tool.
“I try to talk about the things where it is possible to make a difference. That’s what I’m focused on,” she said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”