GOP Opposition To Elizabeth Warren Devolves Into Name-Calling, Personal Attacks

May 26, 2011 12:52 pm ET — Brian Powell

Patrick McHenry

If the Republican opposition to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its architect, Elizabeth Warren, didn't appear absurdly churlish before, Rep. Patrick McHenry's (R-NC) performance at a CFPB oversight hearing in the House this week has firmly established their hollow obstructionism as nothing more than political theater. The chairman of the Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on TARP and Financial Services came across like a petulant child when he became aware of a scheduling conflict with Warren, his primary witness, who had to depart the hearing after an hour of questioning for another appointment.

Warren argued that the committee's staff had changed the scheduled hearing time at the last minute, and she had done her best to accommodate their requested changes. McHenry accused her of lying on the record and later stated that Warren had a "blatant sense of entitlement" in her demeanor towards the Congress. He also accused her of exceeding her authority in her role as a special advisor, a baseless claim that Wall Street Journal columnist David Weidner strongly refuted:

Moreover, the scheduling brouhaha is beside the point. Mr. McHenry's challenge-and the wider Republican opposition to Ms. Warren-is about authority.

On that point, there isn't really anything to debate. Ms. Warren is not only within her right to participate in the mortgage settlement talks, she is obliged to by law. The Dodd-Frank Act spells it out. It's in Title X, Sections 1001 to 1100H.

McHenry and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have since been waging an unusually hostile and sophomoric Twitter campaign against Warren. Their tweets describe her as trying to "walk out" of the hearing, having "complete disregard" for congressional oversight, and attempting to hide information from taxpayers.

McHenry went so far as to post a sarcastic "thank you" to his critics and posted a link to Warren's personal schedule, implying that she was lying when she said she had other appointments to attend. (Warren's posted schedule clearly hasn't been updated since at least March 28, because everything after is completely blank; it's unlikely Warren has had no appointments in two months.)

The Oversight Committee has even reportedly resorted to deleting critical comments about their treatment of Warren from their Facebook page - and there have been many such comments, as that page and McHenry's have been flooded with comments supporting Warren and denouncing her Republican attackers.

McHenry's attempts to paint Warren as "entitle[d]" are not new, and they mirror sustained right-wing attacks on Warren as power-hungry, elitist or arrogant. Republican disdain for Warren, who may be chosen by President Obama as the new "sheriff" of Wall Street, belies their legislative priorities — to protect the banks and financial institutions that keep them in office with campaign contributions.

Republican efforts to create this misleading public caricature of Warren are particularly silly given her background. Warren is a professor and ex-Sunday School teacher from Oklahoma. She has a law degree and a wealth of experience in bankruptcy law, consumer protection issues, and on Wall Street. She looks to John Wesley, founder of the Methodist sect of Christianity, for inspiration. She is the daughter of a janitor and is a huge fan of the NBA's Houston Rockets. She maintains zero balances on her credit cards.

In other words, Warren is the quintessential local girl made good. Through a combination of hard work and sharp intellect, she has landed a position that allows her to help set up an agency tasked with protecting other average Americans from the dense and sometimes deceptive practices of the large banks and credit card companies who hold our financial well-being in their cuff-linked hands.

The contrast between the truth — Warren's modest roots and character and her broad legal authority as an advisor to the CFPB — and the Republican straw man depicting Warren as an arrogant elitist blinded by ambition, is stark and illustrates once again just how out of touch Republicans on the Oversight Committee are with the American people.