‘Good ol’ boys’ in Warren’s way?

Aug 14th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics

As President Barack Obama closes in on picking a new federal consumer protection chief, the critics’ arguments against liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren are getting louder.

She can’t get 60 votes in the Senate, some say – too polarizing. Others say Warren’s outspoken public persona and left-leaning impulses are an uncomfortable fit for the new post riding herd on Wall Street, where she has few backers.

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But some of Warren’s supporters see a deeper problem at work against her — in their view, the Treasury Department is a stodgy old-boys club poised to blackball Warren from getting the post, in part, because she’s a woman.

Now they’re trying to turn that argument on its head. The National Organization for Women, liberal activists and some lawmakers are trying to pressure Obama into choosing Warren, by arguing that Warren would provide much-needed balance to an economic team they say is too male-dominated, like Wall Street itself.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “fell on the side of the good ol’ boys system that got us into this mess. Elizabeth Warren fell on the side of trying to fix this mess,” NOW President Terry O’Neill said in an interview. She charges that Geithner and top Obama economist Larry Summers are “imbued” with the “notoriously sexist” culture of Wall Street.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of the most outspoken advocates for Warren on Capitol Hill, agrees there’s a gender issue at Treasury.

“I think there’s a problem there … It’s a Wall Street cultural problem. Wall Street is populated by testosterone-driven men,” she said. “The president and Secretary Geithner should spend some quality time developing a plan to increase the number of women at Treasury.”

Treasury officials and the White House strongly deny any such allegations, offering statistics that show Geithner’s Treasury Department has more gender diversity near the top than in administrations past, with five women in high-ranking Senate-confirmed positions.

“My sense is that Secretary Geithner has made a conscious choice that is very reflective of President [Barack] Obama’s prioritization to make it a good environment for women and to make sure that there are more women here and that there’s greater diversity generally — against a backdrop that was not as strong as it should have been,” said Lael Brainard, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, one of the five top-ranked officials.

Outside groups who keep tabs on opportunities for women in government also back up Treasury’s record on diversity.

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