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The Amazing Schneiderman?
This began as a discussion in the comments over Chris Hayes interview with New York State Attorney general Eric Schneiderman on Sunday’s edition of UP:
Hayes asked some good questions and at one point pretty much boiled it down to two camps of Liberal reaction over Obama’s SOTU announcement of freshly-minted, minty-fresh New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s appointment to co-chair a “state and federal mortgage crisis unit”. The joint investigation is charged with investigating the mortgage fiasco that precipitated America’s 2008 financial collapse and subsequent near-Depression. One liberal camp is cheering the creation of the task force and that Obama chose Schneiderman to help lead it; the other believes Schneiderman may have castrated himself and/or been neutered by the administration.
I always find this interesting because Progressives suffer so much and fight so hard for more Progressives to be involved in the various branches of government, yet when Liberal pols reach such great heights, there’s a reflexive cynicism that kicks in among part of the base, sometimes straight into overdrive, that the Progressive politician in question will no longer be as effective, or even effective at all, as a result of getting into a higher executive or legislative office.
I remember similar criticism when Obama created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and chose Elizabeth Warren chosen to set it up. Naturally, anger and disappointment followed from the same circles over Obama eventually announcing Warren would not head the agency. Hopes had been pinned solely on Warren running it and since she was not, the whole thing was an unserious charade.
However, setting up such a bureau properly is crucial in terms of its future not only as a serious agency, but one that actually has teeth and runs efficiently and that, as a result, would be that much more difficult for future administrations to dissolve or corrupt. I wanted Elizabeth Warren to oversee it’s establishment as much as I wanted her to eventually run it.
Anger and skepticism then arose when it was announced ex-Ohio Attorney general Richard Cordray would be named the director instead of Warren. He seems to have passed the smell test, though and Obama’s recent recess appointment of Cordray seems even more deliberate considering what we now know, according to Schneiderman anyway, that setting up CPFB properly and installing Cordray just prior to the formation of this investigative task force appears to have been key in providing it the necessary staffing and resources.
There’s a paradox we should be careful to avoid as Liberals. Progressives can’t advocate for a more Progressive government, or complain that it isn’t as Progressive as it should be, while simultaneously casting doubt or aspersions on the Progressives that move into positions where they can have a serious effect on political outcomes, public advocacy, prosecutions, or policy. Especially, considering the forces already at work against them on the conservative side.
That said, there should be a healthy level of vigilance with regard to the motives and actions of any politician in the spirit of both the practical: pushing them to favor your side on a given issue, and the less practical: “keeping them honest” However, I also think that when cynicism reaches unhealthy levels it becomes debilitating and potentially destructive. It also often becomes apparent that it’s somewhat of a defense mechanism in an attempt to temper any future disappointments resulting from unfavorable political outcomes, or simply to channel anger, than a proactive skepticism that helps ensure that any given politician is an earnest advocate for the citizenry.
Personally, I feel the same way about Eric Schneiderman that I felt about Warren. I’m always glad to see more Progressives in office fighting the proverbial good fight on multiple fronts. Especially, someone like Schneiderman who hit the ground running and has fought the banks tooth and nail in the face of tremendous opposition by very powerful people. I’m also glad that Chris Hayes didn’t toss him softballs and prodded him for the information people want to know because Progressive politicians need to be able to convey things as clearly as possible when circumstances like “ongoing investigations” are opaque by nature. It helps to remind politicians that less powerful people are counting on them to come through and that hopefully they won’t be forgetting that while advancing their careers or conducting themselves publicly. This way maybe they can avoid things like developing a taste for pricey hookers or tweeting pictures of their cocks.
Image credit [top]: By soopahgrover