Friday, July 23, 2010

OK, So You Apologized, Mr. President. Well, Not Quite Apologized…

Ok, so you finally decided to phone Shirley Sharrod and express your “regret” over her unfortunate firing / resignation – or was that resignation / firing – and that (let me see if I can quote your press statement accurately) “this misfortune can present an opportunity for her to continue her hard work on behalf of those in need, and he hopes that she will do so.” I guess the word regret is as close as a president can come to actually apologizing these days. Even though your press secretary and agriculture secretary apparently have no such limitations. Fine, I’ll not parse words with you.  I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now and exonerate you.

As for that part I mentioned about in my last blog about apologizing to the rest of the nation, here’s where you can start to make a new beginning.

Appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Now that you have signed the Dodd-Frank law, which despite not dealing with the issue of too big to fail is the most sweeping financial regulation package we’ve seen since the Great Depression, now you have to appoint someone who can actually oversee the very institutions that rammed the ship into the iceberg in the first place.

Warren is the perfect choice. She is not a Washington insider, unlike so many in your cabinet. It’s nice that Timothy Geithner likes her. Who cares? What is important is that she is eminently qualified for the enormous task at hand.  Since she is not one of the Wall Street cronies, she will be beholden only to the letter of the law and not whether she may be rubbing certain institutions the wrong way.

And as for whether Wall Street likes her, double who cares? You don’t ask the architects of the worst financial disaster in seven decades what they think of their new overlord, any more than you would ask the habitual speeder what he thinks of the new traffic cop. In fact, Wall Street’s “reservations” about Warren are exactly why you should appoint her, and now.

Mr. President, it is time you stopped thinking of the political implications of every single decision you make, and realize that every once in a while, you simply have to do the right thing. You will get only one shot at this. Don’t screw it up.

Whoever gets the job will in all likelihood put his or her stamp on it. That means the bureau will be molded by its new boss. Either it will be an effective agency that will finally create financial stability, a more transparent derivatives market, limits on bank risk-taking through proprietary trading and a new way to liquidate big banks, or it will become yet another bloated government bureaucracy that your opponents will wrap around your neck and use to bring you down in 2012.  Can you spell Sarah Palin?

Once more you are presented with a choice, Mr. President, and once more the choice is quite obvious. The only question is whether you can break out of the paper bag you have allowed yourself to be placed in and do the right thing.

Apologizing is quite meaningless, unless a change of heart follows. In some circles they call that an amends. You can make one now, Mr. President, and you can do it without having to say, “I’m sorry.”

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