Friday, January 29, 2016


Senator Elizabeth Warren wants us to know that the federal government does an inadequate job of enforcing the law when the lawbreakers are wealthy corporations. Criminal charges are avoided, fines are wrist-slaps, other penalties allowed by the law are sidestepped. Warren points this out in a new report titled "Rigged Justice: 2016: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy."

Accompanying the report is a New York Times op-ed titled "One Way to Rebuild Our Institutions" -- and here's where all this touches on the 2016 presidential race.

In the Times op-ed, Sanders Warren writes:
WHILE presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American, without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

... the [Obama] administration’s record on enforcement falls short....

Presidents don’t control most day-to-day enforcement decisions, but they do nominate the heads of all the agencies, and these choices make all the difference....

The lesson is clear: Personnel is policy.

Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws.
With these passages, Warren steps into a debate Democrats and liberals have been having for some time. Isn't Hillary Clinton more realistic than Bernie Sanders about what a Democratic president could accomplish over the next four years? What chance is there for the Sanders agenda if there's a GOP House and quite possibly a GOP Senate? And if Sanders can't get any of his wish list through Congress, what's the point of nominating him? As Jonathan Chait recently wrote,
Those areas in which a Democratic Executive branch has no power are those in which Sanders demands aggressive action, and the areas in which the Executive branch still has power now are precisely those in which Sanders has the least to say.

Warren is clearly saying: This, at the very least, is the point of nominating Sanders. This is a power he'll have.

Warren also semi-endorsed Sanders in a speech on the Senate floor last week, as Salon's Sean Illing has noted:
On Thursday, [January 21,] the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor....

While it’s not explicit, it’s impossible to miss the thematic overlap between Warren’s message and Sanders campaign....
...“We are headed into another presidential election and I speak out today because I’m genuinely alarmed for our democracy…It is time to fight back against a complete capture of our government by the rich and powerful.”
The most revealing part of the speech was the end. Warren came as close as she has -- or perhaps will -- come to officially endorsing Sanders. “A new presidential election is upon us,” Warren said, “The first votes will be cast in Iowa in just eleven days. Anyone who shrugs and claims that change is just too hard has crawled into bed with the billionaires who want to run the country like some private club.”
And now she's semi-endorsing again. She might as well make it official soon.


In comments, Yastreblyansky says:
Huh--if memory serves, presidents have to get their nominees to important posts through Congress before they can serve, and Warren became famous when Obama was unable to put her in the position he wanted her in. Is Warren telling us Sanders can do better than Clinton (or Obama) at that?
Good point.


Monty said...

You attribute the article to Sanders - see before the block quote.

Steve M. said...

Thanks -- fixed now.

Yastreblyansky said...

Huh--if memory serves, presidents have to get their nominees to important posts through Congress before they can serve, and Warren became famous when Obama was unable to put her in the position he wanted her in. Is Warren telling us Sanders can do better than Clinton (or Obama) at that?

Steve M. said...

Excellent point.

Victor said...

That's why if - it better be WHEN, assholes, or don't bitch if we lose!
- people help GOTV, that they help in House and Senate races too!

If the GOP loses the Presidency this year, but wins by significant margins in either or both the House and Senate, they most likely will do whatever they can to slash and burn the government down to the ground to really, really de-legitimize the new Democratic POTUS!

Yes, they can do even worse than what they did to Clinton and Obama. When it comes to destruction, they are endlessly imaginative, and have boundless energy and resources with which to do so!

It's critical, then, that we capture the Senate back - with, hopefully, at least a 5 or 6+ seat advantage.
And we need to at either win, or really narrow the gap, in the House.

If that happens - yeah, I know, I'm a dreamer - maybe more than a handful of GOP Senators and Rep's will see the writing on the wall, and be less likely to destroy, and more likely to work on some advantageous (to them) compromises, which will help us rebuild our Post-Nixon/Reagan/Bush/W America.

No, I'm not "on" anything.
Ok, maybe some occasional Valium for my post-surgical pain.

Next Thursday, it looks like, after 4 1/2 months, they'll be taking the metal halo off of my ankle - only to put me in a cast for a few week. Still, that'll seem like Heaven after having a 10 lb. erector-set halo on my right foot.
And then, a few months in a "boot," then a brace, and then, hopefully, I can walk like a human being for the first time in well over 20 years!

PS: Keep your fingers crossed, please.

Martin Alexander said...

Not all nominees, this isn't to say your point isn't valid but Sanders certainly wouldn't be appointing unqualified loons to positions like GW did.

Unknown said...

M.A., I feel, if former President G.W. Bush were in this thread, tho a man of few words, I'd expect him to come close to exhausting his working vocabulary to reply to your shot at his NOMINEES (not 'appointees'; there's plenty of corners to sweep the blame crud into for them), to the effect that, Without no exceptions they was all fully qualified loons.

That even applied to some of Dubya's nominees Cheney himself wasn't exactly kicking over his feed tube to get on board for.

(Cheney didn't want Roberts, he wanted the hardbut Luttig -still serving on the DC Circuit CA:exciting!- every bit as certifiable a whack job as Alito. But testing with focus groups suggested Luttig unduly frighted young children and purple state senators, and that nursing mothers who heard his voice tended to lose their capacity to make breast milk - an ideal Cheney man.).

Yastreblyansky said...

Victor, that's great news.

Steve M. said...

Good luck, Victor!

Roger said...

Given the evidently personal animosity Republicans feel toward the Clintons, Bernie *might* have more success getting his appointees confirmed than Hillary could. The counterfactual is unknowable. Since apparently everybody has given up hope that we could regain either the House or Senate, the next four years are likely to either see complete gridlock or a return to horse-trading. I don't see any reason why it's certain that Sanders would be less successful than Clinton. And Hillary's foreign policy preferences are terrible. She's solidly in the neocon strategic camp.