Elizabeth Warren: Not ready for presidential prime time

Here’s why. As impressive and quotable as she is as a senator—”I’m really concerned ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,’ ” Warren memorably declared at her very first Banking Committee hearing—she is basically a one-issue political figure. And that doesn’t get you into the White House in this era. (OK, fine, Barack Obama first came to national attention by declaring Iraq a “dumb” war, but more on that later.) Warren’s punditocratic boosters, like Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, have tried to compensate for her one-issueness by suggesting that the issue that Warren became famous for is still, as Chait put it, “the most potent, untapped issue in American politics.”

And what might Chait be talking about? Get ready: financial reform. That’s right. An issue almost no one talks about anymore and far fewer people understand. I ought to know because I’ve spent tens of thousands of words trying to get people to talk about it since I published a 2010 book called Capital Offense: How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street. I fully agree that Obama failed miserably to exploit a potential populist issue that, once upon a time, might have made him the second coming of FDR. “Surveys show that both Left and Right, liberals and conservatives, were united in wanting to see fundamental change to Wall Street and big finance,” I wrote in 2011. “Yet rather than seizing the chance at the kind of leadership that might have unified a good part of the country, Obama threw himself into an issue that divided Left and Right as never before, and which was not directly related to the historic crisis at hand—health care.”

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