Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Was She Thinking?

To hear the political hacks and lobbyists and experts in diplomacy tell it to The New York Times, Elizabeth Warren has committed the biggest breach of etiquette since Michelle inappropriately touched the Queen. You just don't tell an honorable member of Con-gress that you're fixing to quit the room, especially if you're an uppity liberal female bureaucrat!

Warren, a low-key but passionate consumer advocate, is so despised and feared by Wall Street that the Senate Republicans are refusing to shut down business this week in order to forestall a possible presidential recess appointment behind their backs. Barney Frank is calling the move a slap in the face of democracy.

Meanwhile, a petition with nearly one million progressive signatures, demanding that she head her own consumer agency, is headed for the Oval Office.  Politicians in both parties are being backed into a corner over an appointment none of them has the spine or the stomach for. They are all too beholden to their real masters, the banksters.

So powerful men are doing what powerful men do when confronted by an assertive, powerful woman. They call her a bitch.

Oh, they're being cagey and cunning and oblique about it. They used another woman, a New York Times reporter named Sheryl Gay Stolberg, to get their message out.  According to the Sunday piece, called "The Polite Way to Say No Way," Warren probably blew her own chances for nomination by not being deferential enough to a subcommittee congressman. Stolberg wrote that Warren has committed "a bureaucrat’s brazen violation of a cardinal rule of the Capitol Hill etiquette book: the Congressman Is Always Right."

While Stolberg did give fair comment  to a few Democrats praising Warren, she failed to go beyond treating the story like a TMZ scandal of a gross breach in etiquette.  Nowhere did she mention that the hearing time was changed at the last minute. Nowhere did she mention that Rep. Patrick McHenry had immediately launched into an ad hominem attack against Warren from the outset of the hearing. Like other corporate media outlets, The Times has chosen to dwell on the "sensationalistic" final few minutes of the hearing when words were exchanged.

Stolberg obviously did not watch the hearing in its entirety.( Her usual beat is The White House, so you have to wonder about the provenance of her article.)  Warren remained calm, cool and collected throughout, even as she was accused of lying by McHenry from the outset -- about whether she did or didn't talk to the Justice Department about bank mortgage fraud.  Rarely did he allow her to even answer one of his questions without his own rude interruptions.

Since writing my initial post on the hearing, I have learned a few more unsavory facts about McHenry, other than the most publicized one that he is a shill for the big banks, and that he got away with taking a bribe from Countrywide Financial while he was supposed to be investigating it.  Here are a few more tidbits about this Karl Rove protege, who may have had a hand in the rumor mongering that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child during his primary fight with George Bush.

 - In 2008, while on a Congressional visit to Iraq, he threw a hissy fit after being denied access to a gun.  He called a soldier a "two bit security guard" in another one of those name-calling exchanges he seems to be so addicted to.

- He put a video on his campaign website that violated Defense security guidelines by divulging information about Iraq deployments.

- During his  2008 campaign, McHenry called his opponent, Daniel Johnson, "Nancy Pelosi's chosen recruit" with "pockets stuffed with cash from Washington liberals."  He later erased the slur from his website following pressure by his own party.

-  He was one of the signatories in a letter to the IRS demanding  an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for excessive lobbying and failure to register as a lobbying organization.

- He introduced legislation to put Ronald Reagan's face on the $50 bill.

- During the Mark Foley pedophile scandal, he claimed it was engineered by Democrats.

-He was one of Tom Delay's staunchest defenders when the former speaker was indicted on money laundering charges.

-He proposed a military strike on Iran.

And on and on it goes.  Yet Elizabeth Warren erred in not showing him the due deference he is so eminently entitled to, according to the lobbyists and other hacks The Times used for its source material?

Commenter Jay from Ottawa reports that when he tried to email McHenry demanding that he apologize to Warren, his message was returned because of server overload.  Thinking that perhaps McHenry had rigged his email to reject all references to her, I emailed McHenry with a phony "I Love You" as the subject matter.  No dice.  I got mine back from the Mailer Daemon too.

It doesn't sound like the congressman has any friends left.  His own colleagues are disowning him. His inbox has exploded. Yet the New York Times sources think he is due some respect, just because the sick custom is to call all congresspeople "The Honorable."  Go figure.

Update -- here is the link to the Times article again; apparently it was not showing up well in this post:


Janet Camp said...

Outrageous! Do you have a link to the article? I don't see it, but will look closer. I will email Stolberg. Any other action you would recommend?

This kind of thing has happened too many times. Members of Congress should have to pass a basic mental health test before taking office. The phrase "loose cannon" comes to mind, but that seems far too kind.

I'm all for good manners and respect where it is due, but to pretend the emperor is wearing clothes is just ignorant.

Karen Garcia said...

I reposted the link to the Times article for you at the bottom of my entry. The Stolberg piece seems "balanced" -- but it was oh so slanted toward fomenting some doubts about Warren, in my opinion. Why seek out a retired ambassador to Belgium for his insight on congressional etiquette, for example?

Janet Camp said...

I found the article and liked this bit:

“She stood up to a bunch of bullies on the dais,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic adviser to senators. “Rarely if ever has protocol been breached like that. But, having said that, this is a woman whose views have been demonized beyond recognition, so I say, ‘More power to her.’ ”

John Dingell also (sort of) defended her. NO ONE, can demand respect just because of position--police can do it at the time, but even they may be called to task if they overstep. One also wonders if McHenry would have spoken the same way to a man? I am loathe to call "sexism" every time I don't like the way a woman is treated, but I would like to find out his track record on this subject.

John in Lafayette said...

I mean this in all seriousness: Is there any way in which we can start a Draft Warren movement? We have seven months. I haven't much money, but what I have I would gladly donate to a credible effort.

Janet Camp said...

Karen - the link may have been there. The laptop screen is small and I miss things. I found the "balance" to be more of a false equivalency--something very common in journalism these days. Give both "sides", no matter how ridiculous one side is. It is not editorializing to simply tell the truth--the man was RUDE beyond the pale and anyone with a modicum of self-respect would have been justified to walk up and slap his face! I'd happily go to jail before I'd listen to such insulting drivel from such a twerp.

Climate change is a good example of the false equivalency reporting. I write to these Times writers all the time (especially the so-called science and "health" hacks, and have had some lively discussions--sometimes they even recant!

Karen Garcia said...

If Obama fails to appoint or nominate Warren, I believe this would be the tipping point for all hell to break loose. There is a group called New Progressive Alliance (link on my blogroll)which has Warren at the top of their list as a potential challenger.

Janet Camp said...

If we can't get her appointed, how will we get her nominated--or elected? Is she interested?

I'm getting addicted to this cause! Obama MUST appoint her.

Karen Garcia said...

Very astute of you to point out the journalistic trick of taking a false premise (Warren was as out of line as McHenry) and then having a couple of Democrats "defending" her -- when there was absolutely nothing for her to be defensive about. The Times was very adept at slanting this particular article a certain way while giving the initial impression it was just discussing the conventional wisdom inside the Beltway. This particular reporter covers the White House, not Congress, thereby arousing my suspicions somebody from the WH "fed" her the protocol breach angle to ease Obama's path to not picking her because she offended people. &$^#%%!!!!

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Protocol Breach! I LOVE the way Republicans are all about protocol unless one of them is yelling "You lie!" to the President of the United States as he is addressing Congress!

Sorry, the days when snide members of Congress get to kick witnesses and experts around during these subcommittee hearings in order to show off to their constituencies and corporate Lords needs to go the way of curtsying to the Queen.
These Congressmen and women are not royalty - and men like McHenry and Wilson certainly don't know anything about grace, courtesy and good manners. A guy with a B.A. and a realtor’s license that can't keep up with a Law Professor from Harvard doesn't get to kick her around just because he senses he is losing control over the hearing. This was a clearly a power play on his part. Apparently, his office changed the meeting four times in twelve hours – clearly a bid to throw Warren off her game. But Elizabeth Warren is brilliant and calm and when that didn’t work, McHenry, dumb bully that he is, resorted to dragging the hearing out.

I am writing a letter to the editor of the Times about the shoddy journalism of leaving out the most pertinent information of all – McHenry’s office changed the time of the hearing four times in twelve hours, Warren’s office rearranged her schedule to accommodate him with the understanding that she would need to leave at 2:15 and he went back on the agreement.

Karen Garcia said...

Love that comment Valerie! I can just envision McHenry wearing his crown and gold Century 21 Realty jacket as he pounds his oversized Boehner gavel, screeching for the attention he so desperately craves.

Marina said...

I hate, hate, hate Sheryl Gay Stolberg. I still haven't recovered from her love-fest coverage of Palin pre the '08 election. The Times has laid off/let go/let slip through their fingers so many good reporters (remember David Cay Johnston?) yet Stolberg (and John Harwood, Matt Bai, Kit Seelye, Alessandra Stanley, Michael Shear, David Herszenhorn, Helene Cooper,et. al.) stay on, paid for by our subscriptions. If you really want to raise your blood pressure, see "The Mediscare Revolving Door," by Micheal Shear, May 26--a classic of the "both sides do it" skipping-the-real story genre.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

This tactic of badgering the people testifying before the subcommittee should be considered beneath the Congress of the United States. It is a bullying tactic and is intended to wear down the "witness" and cause that person to misspeak - not allowed in a court of law for just that reason. It does not serve the intended purpose of the hearing which is to gain the information necessary for members of Congress to make an educated decision and vote accordingly. I suspect McHenry's REAL frustration stemmed from the fact he thought he had some real zingers that he was going to spring on Warren at the end of her testimony after he had worn her down and kicked her around a little bit. When she beat him to the punch by holding him to the timeline his office agreed to, HE turned out to be frustrated one.

I was looking for the actual time line agreement on the Internet and met with MANY articles about how Warren’s fans bombarded McHenry’s Facebook page with demands for an apology. Almost all of the links that I encountered right off the bat were favourable to Ms. Warren. It would be great if this “dust up” turned out to give Warren the publicity she needs to bring this vote out into the open. Other than being demonized by the Fox people, I don’t think this vote and the work Warren is trying to do on behalf of Main Street is getting nearly the press it deserves – Sardonicky being one of the few shining exceptions!

Rep. Jackie Speier of California who is on the subcommittee had a GREAT quote about what happened:
“ . . . a scene that if it had happened in a junior high student council meeting would have been stopped by the faculty adviser. Unfortunately though, our subcommittee is without any kind of adult supervision.”

I hope this reflects badly enough on McHenry that this level of badgering and nastiness during these subcommittee hearings diminishes. I also hope that those testifying before members of Congress take a leaf from Warren’s book and stand up to these bullies a little bit.

And John, I am with you! I think the NPA is for people like us!

Middle Molly said...

Hi Karen... I just came across your blog, though I don't have any particular comment to make about this article. I wanted to commend you on your intelligent and powerful writing.. Keep it up!

I will say that I came to your blog after reading one of your comments at the New York Times, the article by David Brooks on "The Missing Fifth" which was published a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for your thoughts and your writing!

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Molly!

Janet Camp said...

Well, Valerie, you nailed it again. I was going to say the same thing about "curtsying to the Queen", but didn't get 'round to it, so thanks for that example.

Marina, thanks for your insights into NYT reporters. Do you have some inside source on this? I don't pay that much attention to bylines outside the science section, but I will look closer from now on!

Karen, I hate, hate, hate the false equivalency that has sneaked into so much of our discourse, scientific and political. I much prefer am ideological rant--at least you know what the person really thinks. There is nothing to be gained from this nonsense of "presenting both sides". I mean, the world really is ROUND, people, no amount of "fair and balanced" reporting is going to make it flat--but you can surely confuse a lot of not-so-well-read=people in the meantime, no?

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I'm with you, Janet, there is something lazy about reporting what both sides say if one side is a PhD in Astrophysics and the other is fundamentalist minister who sticks his hand out the car window in winter and declares there is no global warming. I remember calling a local reporter on this and he said, "You are talking about Investigative Journalism versus Reporting" as if they were equal! I didn't say it at the time because he was the husband of a colleague, but if that is the case, we might as well call these Reporters what they are, Stenographers.

Janet Camp said...

Valerie: Well said. It is appropriate for a "reporter" to mention that the minister is not qualified to speak to the matter at hand, is is not? Or to distinguish scientific fact from personal belief? They are just lazy and in the case here (Stolberg) she is injecting her personal slant anyway; i.e., that it is okay for the Congress to treat people any way they want to because of some "unwritten rule". Where is the evidence for any on this? Where is Obama's effort to "change the way Washington works"?