David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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O'Donnell: She's a Witccccchhhhhh!

| Mon Sep. 20, 2010 12:38 PM EDT

Okay, cue the laugh track. The latest dispatch from the bizarro Planet O'Donnell is that the tea party sweetheart who won last's week GOP Senate primary in Delaware said she had dabbled in witchcraft. During a 1990s appearance on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, she spilled this nugget and noted that she had once had a date on a satanic altar. (She didn't explain what happened on this date.) This is just one more weird fact from Christine O'Donnell's off-beat bio. And Maher says he has other footage of O'Donnell he'll be releasing in the weeks ahead—unless O'Donnell agress to come on his HBO show.

The reference to witchcraft did seem to come out of the blue. But there is a family connection. As we reported last week, O'Donnell has a sister who is quite different from her. Christine O'Donnell is a fundamentalist Christian who has denounced homosexuality. Her sister Jennie is a Los-Angeles-based actor/director/spiritual healer who supports lesbian rights and who says she lives with her girlfriend. Jennie also has pursued many—that is, many—different spiritual pathways. On her LinkedIn page, Jennie writes:

I have studied and practiced many therapeutic methods, as well as many different spiritual practices, such as; The Eastern Philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism, Sidha yoga with Brahma khumaris and other yoga practices for self realization. Western philosophies of Christianity, Science of mind, Course in miracles, Catholicism, Native American Spiritualities, Judaism, Muslim, Sufi, Ancient Alchemy of the Emerald Tablet, Metaphysics, Wicca, Pagan and many other world spiritualities.

Did the sisters share their mutual interests in Wicca? These days, Jennie has been working on her sister's Senate campaign and insisting Christine is not "homophobic." But if Maher wants an interesting show and cannot get Christine, he ought to try to book Jennie.

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Warren To Be Appointed—Sort Of

| Thu Sep. 16, 2010 11:01 AM EDT

Elizabeth Warren triumphs. Well, sort of. President Obama has reportedly tapped her to be a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for the purposes of setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (She will also be awarded the title of assistant to the president.) This is not the same as nominating her to head the CFPB, which Warren, the Harvard professor who runs the Congressional Oversight Panel that monitors the TARP bailout, first (and presciently) proposed establishing in 2007—before the financial meltdown. But it's close.

While Warren's many fans on the left have been fervently pushing for her to be named the new federal watchdog agency's first chief, there were clear signs that she would be met with resistance on Capitol Hill, with the banking and financial industries and their Republican allies in the Senate looking to prevent the plain-spoken consumer advocate from taking the reins of an outfit that is supposed to take on credit card firms, mortgage lenders, and banks that engage in abusive or deceptive practices. Rather than wage a high-profile fight over Warren—a battle that the White House might have been able to turn to its political advantage in the run-up to the congressional elections—the president has opted to sidestep the normal process and hand Warren a position not subject to Senate confirmation. She won't become head of the new agency, but she will be its official godmother, overseeing its establishment.

For some Warren backers, this might seem a half measure. The progressive FireDogLake site called it "the castration of Elizabeth Warren." But sources close to Warren tell me that is satisfied—even happy—with this appointment. And if she's happy....

Still, it's not a clear-cut victory for progressives, given that the move is open to interpretation. Is this a sign that Obama is yielding to GOP obstructionism? (Sen. Chris Dodd, the Democratic chairman of the banking committee, also seemed cool on appointing Warren to head the agency.) Or is this an indication that Obama can craftily outmaneuver GOP blockaders? Did Obama blink, or did he pull a fast one? Perhaps after Warren serves time as the agency's midwife, she'll be in a better position (politically) to be nominated as its first head. In any event, this decision will place the nation's top consumer financial advocate in the news and in the offices of this new consumer protection agency.

Meanwhile, Warren's COP has released its latest oversight report on the TARP bailout. And its no-nonsense review is decidedly mixed and hardly a ringing endorsement of Geithner's management of the massive bailout program:

Although the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) provided critical support to the financial markets at a time when market confidence was in freefall, the program has been far less effective in meeting its other statutory goals, such as supporting home values, retirement savings, and economic growth….

Although the TARP quelled the financial panic in the fall of 2008, severe economic weaknesses remain even today. Since the TARP was authorized in October of 2008, 7.1 million homeowners have received foreclosure notices. Since their pre-crisis peaks, home values have dropped 28 percent, and stock indices -- which indicate the health of many Americans' most significant investments for college and retirement -- have fallen 30 percent. Given that Treasury was mandated by law to use the TARP to address these measures of the economy, their lingering weakness is cause for concern.

In other words, Treasury did not do its job. It used TARP to save the banks and big financial firms; it was not as assiduous when it came to assisting homeowners, workers, and consumers. Mr. Geithner, please give your new special adviser a warm welcome.

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