Richard Cordray is the former Attorney-General of Ohio, the current Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and basically the Democratic Party’s only hope for a semi-tenable candidate for Ohio Governor next year.
Cordray has been operating under threat that President Trump will fire him, or worse (for him) that congressional Republicans will just shut down his agency altogether, in part because his agency is a great symbol of pet interest big government and in part because it’s a walking, living, breathing, eating, talking crapshow.
Cordray would benefit a lot, politically from either thing happening, but right now both results are iffy because a) congressional Republicans have, stupidly, put overhauling Dodd-Frank, of which the CFPB is a part, on ice while they try to ram through a gussied-up version of Obamacare and b) the real action with the CFPB is with the courts, where his agency was ruled unconstitutional but with action that guarantees the matter will head to the Supreme Court where Neil Gorsuch will get a vote on whether it stays or goes.
This is the backdrop that explains why Cordray is doing more media interviews to raise his profile, including with people like John Harwood at CNBC, who conveniently gets Cordray on the record kissing Gorsuch’s butt— a good effort to curry favor with the SCOTUS nominee, and an even better one to get Trump and congressional Republicans to start thinking they need to act, directly:
Harwood: You’re in a small group of people who have clerked for two different Supreme Court justices — you and Neil Gorsuch. Tell me how much you’ve been around him, your observations about what kind of guy he is. He’s about to become pretty famous in this country as a result of his Supreme Court nomination.
Cordray: We’ve met at reunions. The common element for us is we both had two great mentors when we were younger in life. Justice White and Justice Kennedy taught me a lot of lessons that I think I carry into my approach to enforcing the law and respecting the law to this day. And I’m sure that Judge Gorsuch does as well.
Harwood: And what impressions have you drawn of him?
Cordray: I think he is a conscientious, very, very capable judge. I don’t mean to get in the middle of any of those deliberations which are for the Senate.
Harwood: Anything that makes you think he shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court?
Cordray: I’m not in a position to judge that. But, again, he and I have common elements in our background from having worked for two different justices on the Supreme Court, the same two justices, and learned quite a lot, I’m sure in his case, and certainly was true in my case. And I think that’s to his credit.
Clever. And yet, somehow familiar. Ever watch the West Wing? Cordray looks like he has, and like he’s employing the same strategy fictional White House Press Secretary CJ Cregg used to get a more politically damaged enemy than the very nice, above-board, fictional special prosecutor, Clem Rollins, to investigate the under-fire Democratic White House— in that case, the fictional Republican House of Representatives. To the script:
After that, the House takes over the investigation, they make a hash of it, and the President goes on and gets re-elected despite him basically having lied to the American electorate. Cool playbook!
Cordray’s going to get asked a lot about Gorsuch, because yes, they did both clerk for the same two Supreme Court Justice. Watch his answers. This looks a lot like him hugging a future key vote so hard that House Republicans, a great enemy for any Democrat to have, especially with them currently botching Obamacare repeal on an epic scale, just move the battle over the CFPB out of the courts and start legislating in a way that Sherrod Brown and his other Ohio liberal buddies can make hay out of— and that includes future candidate Cordray.
They should do it. But they should also make sure that Cordray doesn’t come out of this smelling of roses.