Joe Nocera has a good column about Elizabeth Warren that’s a bit too optimistic:
To listen to the House Republicans, you’d think the financial crisis of 2008 was like that infamous season of the long-running soap opera “Dallas,” the one that turned out to be a season-long dream. Subprime mortgages? Too-big-to-fail banks? Unregulated derivatives? No problem! With the exception of their bete noire, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Republicans act as if nothing needs to be done to prevent another crisis. Indeed, they act as if the crisis never happened.[…..]
Senate Republicans have vowed to block her appointment if President Obama nominates her. Yet even if her nomination goes down in flames, Senate confirmation hearings would be clarifying. Americans would get to hear Ms. Warren explain why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the potential to help Americans. And they would get to hear Republicans explain why the status quo — including the everyday horror of the foreclosure mess — is just fine.
We’ve heard the word “clarifying” a lot lately, Bobo told us a Mitch Daniels nomination will lead to a clarifying debate about the role of government, for example. The idea that our society is capable of a clarifying debate is, of course, ridiculous. Steve M.:
That’s where I part company with Nocera. In what way would this be beneficial or “clarifying”? In the political life of modern America, how often does a hearing of this kind ever have the slightest impact?
James O’Keefe or Andrew Bretbart can crank out a deceptively edited video and the entire political culture — the entire culture — is sent into a tailspin within 24 hours. What could be said at confirmation hearings for Elizabeth Warren that could possibly have a comparable impact?
And why is that? To some extent, it’s because the things Republicans would say at those hearings that Joe Nocera thinks would be so self-condemning are things Republicans know they can get away with saying, because only a small percentage of Americans (most ly angry lefties) know how outrageous they are. No one’s primed the general public to be infuriated at Republicans who are apologists for fat cats the way the right-wing noise machine primes people to despise, say, NPR elitists or alleged white-hating black racists like the Shirley Sherrod of Breitbart’s disgraceful video.
There are two big currents in national American political dialogue. There is the big conservative scandal-and-hate machine and there is the reaction against it. That’s all we have and it’s all we’re likely to have for quite a while.
All these fantasies about clarifying debate and civil discussion between people of good will are just that, fantasies.