Who Will Obama Choose to Protect Consumers?

| Fri Jul. 16, 2010 12:39 PM EDT

With the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau mere days from being created when Obama signs financial reform into law, the question of the day is: who's going to head it up? The obvious choice is Elizabeth Warren, who's been its biggest champion from the very start. Annie Lowrey:

The idea for the CFPB is hers. She is, bar none, considered the foremost mind on the topic. As the head of the CFPB, many in Washington hoped, she would act not just as a strong leader, but as a draw for smart minds — a kind of J. Edgar Hoover, sexing up the bureau rather than letting it become just another wan regulatory agency. This might sound a bit strong. But I am serious in saying that most everyone I speak with about this issue — on the Hill, in consumer groups, in think tanks — considers Elizabeth Warren just that good.

But HuffPo's Shahien Nasiripour says Warren has a problem: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner doesn't like her.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has expressed opposition to the possible nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a source with knowledge of Geithner's views.

....It's no secret the watchdog and the Treasury Secretary have had a tenuous relationship. Geithner's critics have enjoyed watching Warren question him during his four appearances before her panel. Her tough, probing questions on the Wall Street bailout and his role in it — often delivered with a smile — are featured on YouTube. One video is headlined "Elizabeth Warren Makes Timmy Geithner Squirm."

Well, maybe this source is right, maybe it isn't. But I certainly find the whole thing plausible, and I also find it plausible that Barack Obama would be none too thrilled with a muckraking CFPB director who has little managerial or government experience. That's not really his no-drama style. What's more, there's no telling what kind of deal (if any) the White House made with Sen. Ben Nelson over who they'd appoint.

But I will say this: right now the White House has a big problem with its base. Fair or not, the left wing of the party doesn't believe that Obama either respects them or listens to them much — and this is bad news for Democratic chances in the November midterms. Now, nominating Elizabeth Warren to head up the CFPB wouldn't suddenly make everyone sing Kumbaya, but it would sure go a long way toward patching things up. It would demonstrate, at least for a moment, that he's paying attention to what his base wants, that he's willing to take a chance, and that he's serious about the CFPB having a director who genuinely wants to protect consumers. And just to piss off the entire crew of Fox News, he could even send someone to announce her nomination at Netroots Nation next week. The alternative, as Max Sawicky predicts, is to appoint "some banker d-bag." Take your pick, Mr. President.