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Bair Under Fire

Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC

Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC

You know, I never thought I would be saying this but I think that Republicans might actually be more respectful of women than Democrats.  I’m probably going to burn in Hell now, if I believed in it.  Maybe it’s just a matter of perception and perspective but I just can’t wrap my brain around how Hillary, Sarah and now Sheila Bair have been treated by the Democrats.  Oh, and let’s not forget Diane Feinstein who wasn’t given a courtesy call about Leon Panetta’s proposed appointment to the CIA.  I don’t care if you love or despise DiFi, she was deliberately cut out of the loop and the call went to a more junior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Ron Wyden.  No matter how you slice it, it just looks bad.

As Clay Risen writes today in The New Republic in Bair Market, Sheila Bair is one of those remarkable Republicans we don’t find too often- a long term thinker.

Bair is one of a dwindling species in Washington: a pragmatic conservative who recognizes that fiscal discipline and small government aren’t always the answer–and who sometimes sounds downright populist as a result. “A lot of people out there are losing their houses,” she told me last month. “I think people draw false choices between bailing out financial institutions and helping homeowners. Well, maybe we need to spend on both.” Indeed, Bair’s views on the current crisis may actually be more liberal than those of Obama’s generally centrist appointees, and already there have been signs of strain between Bair and the incoming administration. Who could have guessed that the high-ranking government official most likely to attack Obama’s economic policies from the left would be–of all things–a Republican?

The rest, of course, is history. Few listened to Bair, and, when the housing bubble burst in late 2007, foreclosures began to pile up. In December 2007, Bair told Congress that some 1.3 million mortgage loans would reset over the next year, which “could result in hundreds of thousands of additional mortgage foreclosures over the next two years.” A few months later, she was pushing a comprehensive mortgage relief program, hardly the bailiwick of past FDIC chairs. Her plan, which drew praise from Capitol Hill liberals and consumer advocates but the ire of Henry Paulson and the White House, would require banks to renegotiate interest rates for troubled mortgages, with the government promising to cover most of the losses if they went into foreclosure later.

Opponents accused her of wanting to bailout negligent homeowners–and thereby violate conservative economic values. But Bair argued repeatedly, with impeccable data, that many of the homeowners had been duped, and that in any case the potential social cost of millions of unoccupied houses outweighed the risk. For Bair, this wasn’t a sign that she’d given up her Republican credentials. Rather, it was a pragmatic solution to an unprecedented problem–a problem that Bush has yet to tackle, a year later. Without action now, “the housing market will continue to deteriorate,” she tells me, adding, “I don’t understand why we can give out billions to the financial sector, but when we talk about the [individual borrower] level, we get out the fine-toothed comb.”

She seems to be able to put country and principles before party {{gasp!}}. No wonder the Obama economic team despises her.  She’s so not like them. Bair has used her clout at the FDIC to rescue some shaky banks while at the same time, and in some respects, succeeding,  holding some of those bankers accountable for their actions.  Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard prof who specializes in consumer credit and debt and who is now chairing a Congressional Oversight Committee of the Paulsen Bailout Bill, can’t say enough good things about Bair.  She’s smart, assertive, not afraid to challenge her superiors AND she is absolutely loathed by both the outgoing and *incoming* Treasury Secretaries:

By December, an anti-Bair whisper campaign was making the rounds. The Wall Street Journal reported that Geithner had criticized Bair for protecting the FDIC over the broader interests of the economic recovery efforts, while a December 4 Bloomberg account had anonymous sources saying that Geithner didn’t think Bair was a “team player” and that Obama had decided to isolate her, if not ask her to step down as FDIC chair. “They’re just criticizing me for doing my job,” Bair tells me defensively.

Ahhh, yes, the “You’re not a team player, you’re hard to work with” defense.  It is the stock phrase used ’round the world when a woman gets in the way.  There’s nothing worse for a woman in business than to be told she isn’t cooperative.  It’s a code phrase for “bitch” but saying that would contribute to a hostile work environment.  But in this case, it is reminiscent of being called a racist during the primary when any comparison of Obama to his opponents made him look bad.  It doesn’t take much to be called a troublemaker at work.  You just have to be warm, breathing and expressing your best judgment.  Happens all of the time.  Sheila’s not going with the $600,000,000 campaign flow, therefore we will isolate her and not invite her to meetings until she gives up and resigns.  I know!  Let’s say she’s not a team player.

Tim Geithner has decided to cut Bair out of the loop during the transition period and has only brought her in for  perfunctory meetings.  This is a bad sign of things to come and unacceptable in an economic crisis of this magnitude, especially when the person left out is a responsible, competent key player.  Geithner and Summers strike me as the cocky elite types who are so full of themselves that they don’t need to listen to anyone else.  While the country is teetering on the brink of a Depression, we really don’t need that s%^t.  But not to worry, so far, Bair says she’s staying put, which she has the right to do because she still has 2.5 years left in her term.  However, there is something deeply unsavory going on in the treatment of Bair and I don’t think it is limited to the alpha males refusing to get along with her:

Bair, while paying lip service to presidential prerogative–“I assume if they want change, they’ll let me know,” she says–has no incentive to leave and every reason to stay, particularly if she believes that Geithner will continue Paulson’s Wall Street-friendly bailout strategy. And she’ll have her hands full: The number of banks at risk of collapse is growing–171 by the end of September, the latest number and the highest in 13 years–while the foreclosure crisis, once limited to homeowners who had borrowed more than they could pay, is now spreading to homeowners hit by unemployment. By some estimates, at least one million homes will enter foreclosure next year, on top of some 880,000 this year, leaving in their wake gutted neighborhoods, fragile families, and battered local economies. Meanwhile, so far, Obama seems to be putting off homeowner assistance in favor of infrastructure stimulus and industry-specific bailouts.

Like some of Bair’s critics in the Bush administration, the Obama team is right to be wary of the FDIC chair’s sharp elbows. Not only will she continue the very public push for her foreclosure-assistance plan, but–as she did during Bush’s rescue of Citigroup–she is likely to demand that the FDIC once again be awarded a large chunk of assets when its money is used in future bailouts. “She has no interest in going along to get along,” says Tom O’Brien, former dean at the UMass business school and a close friend of Bair.

But it’s not just a question of which direction, tent-wise, Bair should be spitting. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of bank rescues and mortgage relief, no one in Washington knows more than Bair. And while she readily admits that her plan isn’t a panacea–“there are no silver bullets, no perfect solutions,” she says–her agency has been doing loan modifications for decades, using them to clean up the assets of shuttered banks it takes over. “She absolutely knows how the various institutions work, what kind of strategies and proposals have not worked, and what are the immediate steps that need to occur,” says Taylor. “She can hit the ground running. If she had support from a White House that cared about these things, we would have a rapid improvement.”

It’s becoming more and more clear why Obama was in such a hurry to pass the Paulsen Bailout Bill that didn’t provide for enough oversight. Plus ςa change…

118 Responses

  1. If they can her, can we figure out how to get her into public office?

    I am so past political parties and I will say the GOP has some impressive women as part of their party.

  2. How come I can’t see SOD’s “Private: Don’t Be So Quick to Judge” Thread anymore?

  3. She sounds remarkable. I’ll support any movement to keep her there longer.

  4. Yeah, Reg, she does sound remarkable but not being a “team player” (cough) she’s a girl! (cough) & being competent she’ll be booted tout de suite After all, can’t let her outshine the men.

  5. angienc2: We try not to step on each others posts. When we have two almost simultaneous posts, one of us usually reschedules it to launch later. Most of the time, that would be me, but really, it’s whoever reschedules first. Her post will be back later, I’m sure.

  6. RD — ok — thought I was losing my mind there for a second (or that I was being excluded from the “club”) Glad to know neither is true (at least this time!!) 🙂

  7. angienc2: It happens all of the time. Like I said, I’m usually the one to reschedule. I should automatically reset for 2 hours.

  8. RD:


    Don’t tell Angie!

  9. I love girls who aren’t team players. If only they could all get together and start their own team.

  10. Oh. Dear. I was hoping someone had thought better of posting the other thread. Are we sure we want to go there? It seemed a tad transphobic. 😦 (Not that the individual in the photo was necessarily an actual transgendered person.) I’ll try not to be too quick to judge, but it gave me a bad feeling, similar to seeing the posts on Wonkette about jenniforhillary.

  11. btw — if anyone is planning to buy a house, I heard that this June should be a good time — 30 cents on the dollar is what they will be going for per the “word on the street.”

  12. myiq — My credo is: Paranoia is having all the facts. 🙂

  13. Regency: LOL! Too funny.
    Er, actually, I think that’s what we’re currently doing. And everyone is getting along quite well. Fancy that!

  14. Did I say that out loud?

  15. seraphiclight: I think transgendered people have better taste.

  16. angie:

    I’m more of an “adverse possession” type myself.

  17. RD:

    Are you saying clowns taste funny?

  18. It’s a piece on self-reflection.

  19. myiq: um, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a clown. Or at least not a self-identified one.

  20. SOD: That’s YOU in that picture?? Honey, pink is *definitely* not your color.

  21. SOD:

    I wouldn’t want to see the reflection of that self.

  22. No…you’re not crazy. Just right.

  23. RD — I know, I know…and I’m way overdue for a wax.

  24. RD:

    Okay – But I’ve been seeing a lot of anti-clownite bias around here lately.

  25. RE: Bair…they just hate a smart woman.

  26. I have said for years that liberals are as sexist if not more than conservatives (real ones). Woman’s party anyone?

  27. “they just hate a smart woman that refuses to go along with the program.”


  28. I admit it. I am anti-clown. Yet for some reason, you’re one of my favorite Conflucians, myiq. Go figure.

  29. SOD — I thought it was Tiny Tim’s younger, uglier brother.

  30. lol myiq2xu!

  31. Angie — that one’s for you sista! 😉

  32. They’re miffed because she won’t stick to just getting them their coffee.

    Too f-in bad.

  33. seraph:

    It’s the kavorka

  34. No one picks on you without feeling my wrath.

  35. myiq: I’m not anti-clownist. Some of my best friends are clowns.

    Actually, that’s true, now that I think about it.

  36. “SOD — I thought it was Tiny Tim’s younger, uglier brother.”

    Is his name Kevin?

  37. Who could have guessed that the high-ranking government official most likely to attack Obama’s economic policies from the left would be–of all things–a Republican?

    Um….I could’ve guessed. Who else here could have guessed that would happen? Raise your hands!

  38. myiq…you actually made me SNOL: snort-laugh out loud. 😀

  39. SOD — of course they hate her — she doesn’t want to “go along to get along” & that is the ole boy’s raison d’etre

  40. It’s disturbing to think that it may be easier to convince the Republicans to leave our uteruses (uterii?) alone than to get the Democrats to take our utuerses seriously.

  41. bb — down is up and up is down.

  42. Well I guess that would really be SLOL…but I like the sound of SNOL.

  43. SOD — thanks sista!

  44. Regency, that’s one of the reasons I started a Pro-Choice group on Team Sarah. (“Pro-Choice, Pro-Sarah”.) I think it’s the direction to go; make it more comfortable for pro-choice Republicans to “come out,” as it were.

  45. You two are sisters?

  46. I still say it’s Ken Layne in that picture, but what do I know.

    Anyway, Shiela Bair sounds even smarter than the last time you wrote about her, RD. I wish she and Hillary would put their heads together.

  47. Speaking of anti-clownites, where’s Pat?

  48. John Ziegler, who is making a documentary about media bias this year, interviews Palin in AK. About Courics continued critique of Palin not answering her question about what she reads: “Well Katie, because the universe does not revolve around you.” Warning: do not read a lot of the comments, because it only confirms how media brainwashed most people are, still repeating the long-debunked myths and lies about Palin:


  49. I wish she and Hillary would put their heads together.

    I was thinking the same thing bb. Sounds like a good power team, especially regarding the necessity of addressing the housing crisis as a black hole in the economy. Throwing more money at the problem without specific goals or accountability will not work.

  50. BB: *raises hand*

  51. Well, Hillary and Sheila may yet get together for a meeting. Remember, Hillary is working to expand the reach of the SD to include some economic powers as well. Maybe the two of them can work something out. Failing that, they may just consult off the record.

  52. Well, if Hillary was the incoming President, I’m very sure that she’d been keeping Bair as head of FDIC and firing Gates at Defense.
    You know that the Clintons are about competency and merit, not patronage and cronyism?
    Which is why official Washington hated and hates their guts.
    BTW, has anyone warned Mrs. Obama not to piss off Sally Quinn? Because if you do that triggers an automatic Special Prosecutor on your ginned up case.

  53. that’s she’d be.

  54. Darnit, I do wish that this wonderful blog-for which I vote every day- had a preview feature.

  55. SOD,

    You’re killing me here. You really need to warn us so that we can put down our drinks.

  56. Competent women are continually marginalized.

  57. OMG

    The guy in that picture is actively engaged in criticizing someone else’s looks?

    I’m betting he’s on the upside of the healthy weight percentile.

  58. Is Jimmy really just a self-loathing fat boy?

  59. BB — got you all hot ‘n’ bothered eh? He’s a looker that Jim

  60. Sorry, I meant frat boy.

  61. SOD,

    He reminds me of someone….Opie?

  62. Sweet Sue,

    We do have a preview feature. Just hover over the link.

  63. BB (at 9:15)– no you didn’t~ 😉

  64. Regency,

    What do you think? Would this guy be a Big Man on Your Campus?


  65. It was just a typo, SOD. Honest. Want me to delete it?

  66. SOD:

    He has his hand in the “wank” position

  67. When I was working and trying mostly unsuccessfully to break through, I always said, “I hope that all of these men come back in another life as smart females”.

  68. No– just kidding Boomer!

  69. I’m still reeling that someone who is so obviously not Brad Pitt in the looks department encourages others to pick on people for their looks.

  70. SOD,

    It really really was a typo. {{snork}}

  71. BB, where exactly do I hover? Tried a few places and nothing popped up.
    I do thank you for the response.

  72. OMG — He looks even WORSE then he did before (and I didn’t think that was possible). He is going around bullying people because they are “ugly & fat?” This is like those preachers who go around condemning gay people from the mountain tops but who meanwhile are handing out bjs in men’s rooms like candy. I always want to scream at those preachers: don’t you know you are gay? Stop condemning gay people!! By the same token: Doesn’t this guy own a mirror? I wasn’t insulted before because I figured “sticks and stones,” but after seeing him, now I am insulted– how dare he? I am a GODDESS compared to Pilsbury Doughboy.
    Geesh — talk about people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  73. Sweet Sue,

    If you hover over a link, like that picture of Jim Newell that SOD posted, you should be able too see the a good-sized preview. At least I see it. What browser are you using?

  74. Myiq,

    Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is the “wank” position?

  75. Hmmmm. Wasn’t Obama the guy who said he wanted to surround himself with opposing opinions? Right….

  76. bb — more like a Freudian slip.

  77. BB: That sad thing is that if I was as easy in reality as I seem online, I’d go out with him. I have a thing for red-headed cadeverous types. Jackassses, however, need not apply.

  78. BB,not sure if Microsoft or Google is the problem. Might be that my computer is just too damn old.
    Or-gasp-I am?

  79. Great post, RD! What makes me sad is that you’ll probably be able to post it again and again, with only the name of the woman public official involved changed, over the next few years. : ( Maybe they hate Bair because she’s a banker like Granny.

  80. “Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is the “wank” position?”

    Think of a fireman gripping a hose.

    A very small hose.

  81. SweetSue @ 9:35 — LOL! That’s always my knee jerk response when I can’t figure out something on the computer.

  82. myiq,

    Oh dear, right there at the Federal Reserve demonstration? Or whatever that was.

  83. Obama serves Reid taste of Chicago Way


    Good article about the Burris seating. Apparently, BO used his Chicago strong-arm tactics on Reid because it was too much of a “distraction” in his last 2 weeks of transition.

  84. Ang

    I think we nailed it the other day when we said this is like the guy who realizing he has absolutely no chance calls the girl a lesbian or frigid out of frustration.

    He’s one of those guys I would have let down gently in the old days before I got a spouse.

  85. Back on topic, I wish Shiela Bair and Hillary would get together, lure Tim Geithner into a room at Diane Feinstein’s house. And then, well…have you seen the movie Nine to Five? Keep him there while they secretly solve the economic crisis while Obama is out doing his snake-oild selling tour. By the time they let Geithner out, everything has been worked out and Obama thinks Geithner did it.

  86. Sweet Sue,

    It can’t be you. Maybe it is something about your computer or your browser. My computer is pretty new.

  87. Fif — that article is a MUST READ. Finally, someone in the msm laying out the facts & the ‘before” and “after” statements while the rest of the msm suffers from amnesia. Best line in the article:

    One reporter barely tossed it up [the Reid/Burris call] at the end, after others asked him about the war in the Gaza Strip (Obama still can’t comment about Gaza because he’s not yet president) and the economy (though he’s not president, you can’t stop the guy from commenting on that one).

  88. Prepare to be shocked: Dems in senate oppose Obama tax cuts (I am sure it will be short lived)

  89. Cwaltz — exactly. He defines the difference between “kewl” on the internet & “cool” IRL.

  90. edge — I’m sure this will not even last as long as the Burris opposition. Heck with Burris, they at least had the One on their side for a day or two.

    Oh, Harry — how does it feel to be under the bus? Stay on the other side though — far away from me.

  91. Is Taggles here?

  92. It’s 3 minutes to show time and the log-in information doesn’t work…..


  93. KB — whatcha need??

  94. You are absolutely right. Republicans do respect women more than Democrats do. And for some reason the Democrats have a passel of devoted little women like the membership of NOW who follow them around waiting for the next kick in the head but always voting Democrat.

  95. edgeoforever — Perhaps the Democrats are not the monolith Obama and the media would like us to believe. After all they have never been known to march in lock step with their leader before. Remember 1993 when we had a Dem Congress and a Dem President Bill Clinton — they took great pleasure in voting against him.

    When I called Reid’s office about Obama’s Social Security statement at his Press Conference yesterday. They not only confirmed that Reid had not changed his mind on the value of Social Security but felt even stronger today then he did when Bush was trying to privatize it.

    Obama may want a Unitary Presidency but first he has to earn all that power by picking the right fights.

  96. Conflucians is on in a few minutes.

  97. fif — It was Obama who didn’t want Burris seated. Now he tries to make it look like he’s the one seating Burris. Jesus wept

  98. sod: did she get in?

  99. katiebird is trying to get conflucians say going on her own — please listen in and call!

    please listen and call in if you can:


    call in 347-539-5420!

  100. I’m not holding my breath on a Democratic Congress protecting me. They have done a crappy job thus far.

  101. Yes..she’s in.

  102. What happened? I was making some popcorn to go with SOD’s post.

  103. It’ll be up in a sec….but where IS everyone?

  104. It won’t be wasted. We can leave it up overnight.

  105. Does anyone know how to make the radio player start? I can’t figure it out.

  106. YIKES. 😎

  107. SOD,

    That didn’t happen last night. I’ll be up for awhile and if necessary, I’ll close the comments temporarily.

  108. I won’t mind doing cleanup tomorrow either.

  109. OK then.

  110. New Post Up!!

  111. Thanks.

  112. ok, where did the Don’t Be So Quick to Judge post go this time?

  113. I’m so confused!

  114. I know I was in the middle of posting that I was having a hard time with our practical skills lab. You know the one where we looked for redeeming qualities in Jim Newell.

  115. I’m back! sorry about that…

  116. Bair should start a civil rights lawsuit before she leaves the FDIC. Sex, age, and race discrimination by barrogant and his rudeness’economic team.

    And after the women meet and solve the economic problems, they should thoroughly inform the US population that they take their rightful credit for taking care of Business!

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