Geithner: Warren favored 'made for YouTube inquisitions'

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner criticizes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in his new book for impugning the administration's choices during the financial crisis.

In his new book, Stress Test, Geithner writes that the tough grilling he often faced from Warren may have been more about burnishing her own reputation than getting answers.

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“Her [bailout] oversight hearings often felt more like made-for-YouTube inquisitions than serious inquiries,” he wrote. “She was worried about the right things but she was better at impugning our choices — as well as our intentions and our competence — than identifying any feasible alternatives.”

Geithner writes that he had a “complicated relationship” with Warren.

Before becoming a senator, Warren was a consumer advocate and law professor beloved by the left. She also headed the Congressional Oversight Panel, created by Congress to monitor bailout programs.

Warren is widely credited with coming up with the idea for a government agency devoted to protecting consumers in the financial marketplace, and that idea would eventually find a home in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Geithner recounts the fierce effort from the left to get Warren the job heading the new agency, but he says Senate Republicans, and even some Democrats, were wary of picking someone so beloved by left and opposed by the industry.

Republicans were set to oppose any nominee to head the new agency they opposed, and Geithner said some centrist Democrats did not want Warren either.

“They didn’t want to vote for a controversial liberal at a conservative moment,” he wrote. “They were also worried about the intense opposition in the business community.”

In fact, Geithner said Senate Democrats were not even sure they could muster most of their members to provide a majority of support to Warren, let alone the few GOP votes needed to get to a filibuster-proof 60.

Treasury officials agonized over how to handle Warren, ultimately settling on a compromise of sorts. By naming Warren the acting head of the agency as it was being built, Geithner said she could build a public reputation that could ease tensions around her confirmation.

The administration only adopted this stance after cajoling from then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who wrote in an email there were more pressing issues to be dealt with.

“We are all spending a lot of time on one person,” Emanuel wrote.

Geithner says President Obama was torn about what to do with Warren, as liberals and close adviser Valerie Jarrett were backing her to head the agency.

After she was named temporary head of the agency, Geithner wrote he was a “bit annoyed” to see her hire away a number of Treasury staffers to help build it up, after spending so much time criticizing the Treasury’s efforts elsewhere.

“She was unapologetic when my team finally confronted her about it, and you had to respect her determination to get things done,” he wrote.

The president would go on to nominate one of Warren’s deputies, Richard Cordray, to become the first full-fledged director of the agency. Warren would end up running against and defeating Scott Brown in 2012, becoming the high-profile freshman lawmaker she is today.