On her first day on the job, Geithner took her out to lunch. When she showed up at his office, he presented her with a present: a cop’s hat.
Then they got into the back seat of an SUV that was driven by a security detail. Warren put her seatbelt on; Geithner didn’t.
“Like a bossy third-grade teacher, I looked at him and said, ‘Put on your seat belt, Mr. Secretary,’” Warren writes. “Like a naughty kid, he looked back and said, ‘I don’t have to.’”
They continued arguing the point, and Warren thinks she raised her voice.
“He didn’t put on his seat belt all the way to the restaurant,” she writes. On the way back, after debating the role of government in the financial markets, he did put on his seat belt.\
Geithner’s not the only big D.C. figure she’s traded elbows with. She had a spat with President Obama over whether she would get to lead the agency she helped start, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama had already decided it would be too costly an appointment to make:
Summoned to the White House in September 2010, Elizabeth Warren met President Obama in the Oval Office and he escorted her outside to a garden patio. Obama described it to Warren as a hidden retreat. But Warren, writing in a new political memoir, says the weather was hot, and the patio, confined between hedges, “felt like a green version of Hell.”
Obama had already told Warren during a previous visit that he would not name her to lead the [CFPB]. “You make them very nervous,” he told her in that previous conversation, which Warren says ended with “a perfunctory hug.”
Now, Obama wanted her to perform the hard work of setting up the agency, even without the promise of the ultimate leadership role. What’s more, she would have to work with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, one of her rivals who had opposed her nomination to direct the bureau. Warren, as she recounts in “A Fighting Chance,” at first rejected the president’s request.
“You’re jamming me, Elizabeth,” Obama said, in a tense conversation that lasted for an hour and was twice interrupted by an assistant reminding Obama of his next meeting.
“He urged me not to overplay my hand,” Warren writes. “Got it.”
“Sometimes you have to trust the president,’’ Obama implored, according to Warren’s retelling. “Let me work this out.”
“All right,” she replied. “I’ll trust you on this.”