Oops. Does he or doesn't he back Warren for CFPB?

The head of the American Bankers Association flip-flopped today on a key question: Whether he'd support the possible nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

First the American Banker reported his support:

WASHINGTON — Frank Keating, the head of the American Bankers Association, said Tuesday he would back Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if nominated by the president.

"If she is the nominee, we would be fully support of her," said Keating, who, like Warren, hails from Oklahoma.

But barely an hour and a half later, the ABA officially backtracked - with a pointed reference to its support for a House Republican plan to make sure that no actual director be appointed to head the new agency - and especially not Warren, the Harvard bankruptcy scholar and middle-class advocate who dreamed up the idea of a single agency to protect consumers from risky financial products.

The American Bankers Association emailed out a statement - from Keating himself: 


by Frank Keating, president and CEO, American Bankers Association

“Let me clarify news reports that misrepresent ABA’s position on the potential nomination of Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. ABA doesn’t weigh in on the nominations process; that’s for the President and Senate to decide.

“If Elizabeth Warren is nominated and confirmed, we will work with her as we would any director. We continue to be concerned about the amount of power vested in the director’s position and, as we indicated in a letter to Congress today, we support legislation that replaces the director with a five-member commission.”

Or, as the Banker's Donna Borak put it:

BA's Keating Backpedals Off of Warren Endorsement

The head of the American Bankers Association on Tuesday quickly reneged on his endorsement of Elizabeth Warren as director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau...

It's hard to tell what this all means, but perhaps it's a "Kinsley gaffe," which Wikipedia defines as:

... an occurrence of someone telling the truth by accident. Typically, it refers to a politician inadvertently saying something publicly that they privately believe is true, but would ordinarily not say publicly because they believe it is politically harmful. The term comes from journalist Michael Kinsley, who said, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."

Warren is portrayed by many Republicans and right-wing talkers as a scary lefty. But that's not how she comes across in person - and she's gone out of her way to meet as many bankers as possible in the months since she was asked by President Obama to get the new agency on its feet.

If she's scary, it's only to opponents who object to the very idea of consumer protection. But after the housing bubble and subprime debacle, that's a tough case for anyone but an avowed market fundamentalist to make.