John Lawrence and Michael Hirsh
John Lawrence, who spent most of his career serving the Democratic establishment on Capitol Hill, more or less vindicates my argument, which is that this same establishment remains in a serious state of denial about the depth of anger within the Democratic base, and its sense of betrayal. Lawrence appears to see my article as a personal attack on Pelosi—which it is not— rather than a critique of the entire Democratic Party leadership going back to Bill Clinton, which it is.
I write positively of Pelosi’s progressive achievements and skills as a legislator, comparing her favorably to John Boehner and Paul Ryan, while at the same time noting that she’s always been quick to compromise. Certainly the most (unintentionally) comical part of Lawrence’s critique comes when he concedes that, even when they were in the majority, “Democrats were admittedly frustrated by their inability to achieve some goals, among them ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” and “imposing tougher sanctions on Wall Street executives.” As we know, leading members of the Democratic establishment, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, helped to start the war in Iraq (though Pelosi deserves credit for voting against it). As far as Wall Street goes, the establishment did little better, as I note in my article. What especially brought a smile to my face was Lawrence’s comment that I “would do well to study Pelosi’s allocation of women and minorities to crucial committees and leadership.” In my two decades of covering Washington, I saw no worse abuse of cronyism than when Pelosi, while still Speaker in 2009, appointed her old California acquaintance Phil Angelides to head the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, despite his lack of qualifications. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chose Angelides over a supremely qualified woman, Brooksley Born, the derivatives whistleblower who was one of the very few heroes of the whole sordid financial scandal. Born, the former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, had seen the dangers of unregulated derivatives trading—including all those notorious mortgage-backed “collateralized debt obligations”—before almost anyone else in Washington. But powerful men such as Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, his deputy Larry Summers, and Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan silenced her in the late 1990s. A brilliant lawyer who had once been short-listed for attorney general, Born also knew how to conduct an investigation. Angelides did not, and he made a mockery of the probe from the very first day, when he thanked the visiting chairmen of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America for their “thoughtful” opening statements.
The outcome was that what could have— and should have—been the twenty-firstcentury version of the famous Pecora Commission of the 1930s turned into a farce. During the New Deal period, Ferdinand Pecora, a formidable New York prosecutor, humiliated and forced the resignation of Charles Mitchell, the head of National City Bank (later Citibank), and oversaw an investigation that ultimately resulted in the Glass-Steagall Act. In contrast, Angelides’s commission issued a report that disappeared without a trace.