Thursday, December 05, 2013

Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back

Elizabeth Warren has learned from Senator John Kerry (and others) and will not go gently into that good night (cliche #1). Kate Zernike of The New York Times writes

Three decades after the Vietnam War and nearly two years after Mr. Kerry's failed presidential bid, most Americans have probably forgotten why it ever mattered whether he went to Cambodia or that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused him of making it all up, saying he was dishonest and lacked patriotism.

But among those who were on the front lines of the 2004 campaign, the battle over Mr. Kerry's wartime service continues, out of the limelight but in some ways more heatedly — because unlike then, Mr. Kerry has fully engaged in the fight. Only those on Mr. Kerry's side, however, have gathered new evidence to support their case.

Kerry has made his case, as he characteristically does, methodically and thoroughly, as Zernike outlines:

The Swift boat group insisted that no boats had gone to Cambodia. But Mr. Kerry's researcher, using Vietnam-era military maps and spot reports from the naval archives showing coordinates for his boat, traced his path from Ha Tien toward Cambodia on a mission that records say was to insert Navy Seals.

Mr. Kerry's supporters have also frozen frames from his amateur films of his time in Vietnam and have retrieved letters and military citations for other sailors to support his version of how he won the Silver Star — rebutting the Swift boat group's most explosive charge, that he shot an unarmed teenager who was fleeing his fire.

Another photograph provides evidence for Mr. Kerry's version of how he won the Bronze Star. And original reports pulled from the naval archives contradict the charge that he drafted his own accounts of various incidents — which left room, the Swift boat group had argued, to embellish them.

But it is now over four decades from the incidents portrayed- and nearly a decade since Kerry, who completely dominated President George W. Bush in the three debates which were held- lost a presidential election Democrats had within their sights (cliche #2).  The Swift Boat controversy, accurately or otherwise, often is credited with having cost the Massachusetts senator the election and

Of course, plenty of disappointed and angry Democrats would like to know why Mr. Kerry did not defend himself so strenuously before the election. He had posted some military documents on his campaign's Web site and had allowed reporters to view his medical records but resisted open access to them as unnecessarily intrusive.

Mr. Kerry and his defenders say that they did not have the extensive archival material, and that it was too complicated to gather in the rapid pace of a campaign. He was caught off guard, he says; he had been prepared to defend his antiwar activism, but he did not believe that anyone would challenge the facts behind his military awards. "We should have put more money behind it," Mr. Kerry says now. "I take responsibility for it; it was my mistake. They spent something like $30 million, and we didn't. That's just a terrible imbalance when somebody's lying about you."

The presidency is a ship that has sailed (cliche #3) for the current Secretary of State as the party, ignoring the growing gap between the middle class and the ultra-wealthy amid growing corporate wealth and power, appears to be excitedly handing on a silver platter (cliche #4) the nomination to the neo-liberal wife of a neo-liberal former president.

But Elizabeth Warren is no John Kerry, and no Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, each of whom has at times been overly generous to his political enemies.  On November 18, she spoke out (transcript here; video here) on the Senate floor to defend Social Security, and- more threateningly- link it to the importance of maintaining "a middle class that continues to remain the backbone of our country."  Understandably, Jim Cowan and Jim Kessler, respectively the president and the vice president for policy of think tank Third Way, were not pleased.  In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal flogging the urban myth (cliche #4) of a Social Security system in crisis, they claimed

Undeterred by this undebatable solvency crisis, Sen. Warren wants to increase benefits to all seniors, including billionaires, and to pay for them by increasing taxes on working people and their employers. Her approach requires a $750 billion tax hike over the next 10 years that hits mostly Millennials and Gen Xers, plus another $750 billion tax on the businesses that employ them.

Slickly, Third Way tries in one paragraph to gin up generational warfare- "hits mostly Millenials and Gen Xers!"- and class warfare- "increasing taxes on working people!"  The organization evidently defines "working people" as individuals with an income well above $100,000, given that Warren supports Senator Tom Harkin's bill, which would raise the needed revenues merely by eliminating the cap on income (currently $113,700) subject to taxation.  Salon's Elias Isquith finds that the other arguments by the "economically plutocratic wing of the Democratic Party" fail on several counts (cliche #5).

But Warren's take-no-prisoners approach (cliche #6) may prove to be as consequential to the drive for adequate Social Security benefits as appeals to reason, whether by Isquith, CAP's Alan Pyke, Daily Kos' Joan McCarter, Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, or others.  In a letter promptly sent by Warren's office, the Massachusetts senator confronted the heads of the nation's six largest financial institutions by explaining

I am writing to encourage you to voluntarily disclose financial contributions your institutions make to think tanks. In my view, policies by your institutions to conceal those contributions from public view are wrong. Greater transparency will benefit your shareholders, policymakers, and ultimately, the public...

When you use corporate resources to support think tanks there are only two possible outcomes from public disclosure – those contributions do not influence the work of the think tanks or those contributions do influence the think tanks’ research and conclusions. Either way, shareholders have a right to know how corporate resources are spent, and, even more importantly, policymakers and the public should be aware of your contributions and evaluate the work of the think tanks accordingly.

As a list- to which Isquith linked- of the Board of Trustees of Third Way indicates, the "centrist" organization is dominated by Wall Street.   But Elizabeth Warren will have none of it (cliche #7).  She has attitude, a vital attribute long missing among Democrats

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