Friday, April 1, 2011, 3:27 PM

Will the real Ms. Warren please stand up?

Posted by: Chris Jones


"Will the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up, please stand up." It is that refrain that rang out through the Grammy Awards several years ago. The point of the song is that there are "posers" who pretend to be something that they are not...and that they shouldn't do that. Now, as the above attached video demonstrates, Eminem expresses that idea more colorfully than we will here, but lets be clear, I've been watching, reading about and listening to Elizabeth Warren closely for nine months, and have determined that she is a chameleon.


She not only changes colors, but appears to change her entire message to suit her audience. Take, for instance her appearances on HBO's decidedly liberal "Real Time" program, which you can watch here and CNBC's "Squawkbox" here, and compare it to the message that she was hawking that was reported on in yesterday's "Deal B%k" post, by New York Times reporter Ben Protess, in which Ms. Warren consderably softened her anti-industry rhetoric in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Capital Markets Summit of earlier this week.


While in the "lions' den," as it were, Ms. Warren even went so far as to suggest that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would help the financial industry by easing some unnecessary regulations. For instance, as Mr. Protess reported, she said: “'The lesson seems clear: Rules should be focused, and those that are not useful should be revised or eliminated,” she said, adding that the bureau would not primarily focus on writing new regulations. Ms. Warren said she even agreed with the chamber’s recent proclamation that the bureau should work to “prevent duplicative and inconsistent regulation of Main Street business.” That is why, she said, the bureau’s top priority is to “consolidate the duplicative and burdensome” mortgage closing documents."


Really? The bureau will not primarily focus on writing new regulations? That doesn't sound particularly similar to what she has said in other venues and before different audiences. Now, BB&R has never been a vocal critic of Ms. Warren. In fact, she is quite capable, and her combined expertise with respect to consumer finance issues and uncanny ability to refine those issues and present them in a manner that lay people can understand are impressive. And, so far, the people that she is choosing to populate the new Bureau are not altogether objectionable. However, make no mistake, the Bureau is not being set up to protect any aspect of the industry. Its constinuancy is the consumer...period. To think otherwise is to be naieve and, therefore, transparency is important. While we are not suggesting that she go looking for a fight, being straight with the industry and dealing with whatever consequences may arise is one measure of determining whether and to what extent we, all of us, can rely upon what she says.


To the extent that is a litmus test (for anything), and it is not at all clear that it is, she may not be passing at the moment.

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