I’ve said it on Twitter already, I’ll repeat it here: THANK YOU, PRESIDENT OBAMA, FOR RECESS-APPOINTING RICHARD CORDRAY TO HEAD THE CFPB:
President Obama will appoint former Ohio Atty. Gen. Richard Cordray on Wednesday to be the first director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, making a controversial decision to install Cordray while the Senate is in brief recess to avoid Republican opposition, according to a White House official.
And although that paragraph is “just the facts,” kudos as well to the LAT for getting the backstory right and not trying to soft-pedal it or shoot for false equivalence in an attempt to provide “balance”:
By refusing to allow Congress to adjourn, Republicans have been able to prevent recess — and recess appointments. The Senate and House have met every few days in pro forma sessions that last a matter of minutes.
Democrats, under Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, used the same strategy on occasion when President George W. Bush was in power.
But the Republicans have used the strategy throughout 2011 as the procedural arms race has escalated in the face of GOP opposition.
That’s exactly right: the GOP has escalated the procedural war(s) in both houses of congress – but particularly the Senate, which is more susceptible to such procedural abuses of power by the minority. This will be – in fact, already IS being – portrayed by the GOP as an unprecedented abuse of power, yada yada yada…you can almost write the half-whiny, half-fulminating script yourself. The important things here are two: 1) it is the GOP which has broken every vow, gone back on every “gentleman’s agreement,” stretched every rule to (and sometimes past) the breaking point in an effort to deny this President any victories (and ultimately to deny him a second term), and 2) on this issue, Obama did not bend. He did not cave. He did not give in to either GOP pressure, fear of not being “bipartisan” enough, or centrist-leaning, pro-banker aides’ advice to “let the (Wall St.) wookie win.”
I could probably waste a lot of time trying to guess what combination of circumstances motivated Obama to do exactly the right thing in this case: it could be because it was the right thing to do. It could be because he felt heat from progressive groups. It could be because it’s now campaign season and he’s switched back to “stump Obama” and away from “bipartisanship-seeking, conciliator-in-chief Obama.” I have no doubt that in some corners of the Internet, Obama’s decision today is already being portrayed as yet another glorious, planned-in-advance, perfectly-executed example of eleventy-dimensional chess. Any combination of those things might be the real story. But none of it matters much at this point, primarily because we’ll likely never really know what the reasons were (at least not until memoirs-time, years in the future, and possibly not even then).
But even though the political junkie in me would LOVE to know what the real combination of reasons or forces which compelled this particular decision were, and even though I think knowing would help many political observers get a better handle on how this White House operates, even THAT doesn’t change my opinion that it wouldn’t matter all that much if we knew. At least, not in comparison to the simple fact that the (obviously in-the-works for a while) decision to recess appoint Richard Cordray stands as a shining example of this administration choosing to utilize the full tools available to it in the service of the American people against powerful special interests (and the opposition party), instead of inexplicably leaving some tools available to the executive unused or cutting a premature deal that relied even in part upon the good faith of an opposition party clearly unmoored from not just restraint and ethics, but seemingly reality at times, as well.
Because although nothing is certain and no one can see the future clearly, this is the most hopeful signal we’ve had in a long time from this President that he understands the nature and MO of the forces arrayed against him as well as the realistic options he has available to him to make as much genuine progress for Americans as possible. And it is also a very hopeful signal from the President that he both wants and intends to do many of them. I seem to remember this guy from 2007-8. Only back then, he was just talking a good game about a lot of this stuff. The intervening three years have been a mixed bag in terms of both Obama’s willingness and his ability to deliver on them. Today, he’s talking about them again, but this time after having taken a giant, concrete step forward in DOING them.
Congratulations again, Mr. President, and thank you for doing the right thing when you had the ability to do so.