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“Something Liberals Should Remember”: Obama Is Right: Elizabeth Warren Is “A Politician Like Everybody Else”

On Friday, President Barack Obama sat down with Yahoo’s Matt Bai to promote the Trans Pacific Partnership and delivered his sharpest rebuke yet to Senator Elizabeth Warren and other liberals who oppose the trade deal.

“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he said in the interview, which was published Saturday. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

Bai correctly interpreted these comments as some of the harshest words the president has used against his liberal allies. But, at the same time, they are rather innocuous: Warren is a politician and is susceptible to outside pressure like anyone else. Liberals should remember that.

When Warren speaks about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she often references a battle over a financial regulatory bill in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A law professor at the time, Warren strongly opposed the bill. But the economic team in President Bill Clinton’s White House was divided on it. Warren met with Hillary Clinton, then the first lady, and convinced her to oppose the bill as well. Hillary then convinced her husband not to sign the legislation at the end of his presidency.

Yet just a few months later, Clinton, as a senator from New York, the financial capital of the world, reversed her position. The bill passed and President George W. Bush signed it. “There were a lot of people who voted for that bill who thought that there was going to be no political price to pay,” Warren told The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza recently. Warren wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

The fact that Hillary, the first lady, and Hillary, the New York senator, had opposite opinions of the bill shouldn’t have surprised Warren that much. As first lady, Hillary had no constituents to worry about. But as a senator, Hillary suddenly had millions of constituents with jobs either directly or indirectly connected to the financial industry. It would be great if she—and all politicians for that matter—always voted on principle and were immune from lobbying pressure. But that isn’t the case.

That’s true for Warren as well. The medical device industry is one of the most important industries in Massachusetts, and Warren has gone to bat for the industry multiple times. For instance, she is one of the few Democrats that supports the repeal of the medical device tax, which is part of Obamacare. In February, she introduced a bill to require pharmaceutical companies that pay a penalty and break the law to reinvest a percentage of that penalty into the National Institute of Health. But it has a loophole: Medical device manufacturers are exempt from the requirement unless they make drugs as well.

If liberals want to see a politician who always votes with his conscience, they need to look no further than Hillary’s one current challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. When Sanders announced his presidential run, Matt Taibbi, writing at Rolling Stone, explained:

Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

When Sanders sat down with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, the host noted that he “can hear the Republican attack ad right now: He wants America to look more like Scandinavia.” To which Sanders responded, “That’s right. That’s right. What’s wrong with that?” That is a politician who doesn’t care about his image.

It’s just about impossible to imagine Warren answering a question that way. She and her staff closely guard her image. For instance, she is notorious for not speaking to reporters in the U.S. Capitol, unlike most of her colleagues. It’s very rare that she strays off message.

That doesn’t mean that her votes and policy positions aren’t principled most of the time. I have no reason to believe that she is opposing the trade deal for political reasons. I think she and the president simply disagree on the issue. But as liberals criticize the TPP as a sop to big business and the U.S. Trade Representative for its corporate ties—both of which may be true—it’s worth remembering that Warren herself is not immune to pressure.


By: Danny Vinik, Staff Writer, The New Republic, May 11, 2015

May 12, 2015 - Posted by | Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , ,


  1. I guess I miss the point of this piece. Of course Warren is a politician, and Obama just took a podium to state the obvious, hoping to deflect some of the blowback to his position on TPP. But just because she is political, that does not make her wrong on the TPP issue. Its all very simple to me, and many other voters. If TPP is so wonderful, why does Obama insist on keeping the details secret? The last time we were fooled by a “Just trust me” president, it didn’t turn out well.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Barneysday | May 12, 2015 | Reply

    • I think that it’s a fundamental difference on policy. All are politicians with their pet peeves and projects and all make political decisions, more often than not, in their bid to maintain their seats. Whether it’s on TPP or the Medical Device tax doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean that one person is right and the other is wrong. The discussion on both is good and reflective of democracy. The only person mentioned in the article who has never wavered has been Bernie Sanders. I also think that this President is not the same as Bill Clinton and especially not of the George W. Bush variety. I do however understand your position and concerns.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by raemd95 | May 12, 2015 | Reply

      • I personally believe that “No drama, Obama” lost it on this when it comes to Warren, and he made it personal by his words and tone. There is a term that totally escapes me at the moment, but it is putting up a false picture to deflect concentrating on the real topic at hand. I believe Obama has been trying to do that with the American public by attacking Warren.

        Clearly, if it’s such a great deal, why is he keeping it secret? Why can members of Congress only look at it in a locked room, and are barred from taking in staff, cellphones, cameras, or note pads. if there is nothing to hide, then stop trying to hide. In this case, if it looks fishy, smells fishy, then it likely is.

        Thanks for your response.


        Comment by Barneysday | May 12, 2015

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