By Simon Johnson
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has another ad out attacking Elizabeth Warren (video here). This is beyond ludicrous – the ad attempts to blame Ms. Warren for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and for bank bailouts. The principle here seems to be that when the truth cannot be slanted in a way you want, just ignore the facts and go all out for disinformation.
I count at least five misrepresentations in the ad, and I suggest the following corrections:
- TARP was a Republican program – proposed and implemented by President George W. Bush. At the time, Ms. Warren was busy championing people whose rights had been trampled by the financial sector through various kinds of abuses.
- Ms. Warren became chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) for TARP, precisely because people in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – trusted her to provide an honest and professional check on the support provided to financial firms. She did her highest profile work during the Obama administration, bringing relentless pressure on the Treasury and other agencies who just wanted to prop up big firms without any conditions.
- Ms. Warren has also been a strong supporter of all efforts to rein in Too Big To Fail banks, including by breaking them up. She has consistently been one of the strongest advocates for curtailing the abusive power of megabanks (and others who have behaved badly).
- At the same time, Ms. Warren has not demonized the financial sector. On the contrary, when charged with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she went out of her way to work closely with those in the financial sector who provide sensible products with reasonable conditions. Her emphasis throughout has been on transparency, fairness, and full disclosure in this sector. You are not allowed to sell dangerous toasters in the United States; her point is that you should not be allowed to sell financial products that have been proven dangerous.
- The idea that Elizabeth Warren would ever side with “big banks” against the middle class is preposterous. Time and again, she has stuck up for the middle class (and anyone who uses financial services) – even when it was deeply unfashionable to do so. The big banks have opposed her relentlessly and on-the-record, both directly and through various surrogates.
Perhaps the more interesting point about Karl Rove’s ad is what it tells us about his strategic thinking. His team is implicitly conceding all of Elizabeth Warren’s substantive points: big banks got out of control, they did enormous damage, and they were bailed out in an unreasonable manner. But Mr. Rove’s group thinks it can turn all these issues against her, just because she worked hard against the interests of the banks – particularly to introduce effective consumer protection for financial products.
Will the people of Massachusetts really fall for such blatant and complete deception?