By Andrew Romano
In an exclusive interview Wednesday with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren slammed former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for accepting a multimillion-dollar job with a Wall Street investment bank shortly after leaving Congress.
"This is wrong," Warren said in regard to Cantor's new role as vice chairman and managing director at Moelis & Co. "People work in Washington and, man, they hit that revolving door with a speed that would blind you." She went on to claim that banks hire politicians like Cantor "not because they bring great expertise and insight, but because they’re selling access back into their former colleagues who are still writing policy."
Asked whether Hillary Clinton is also too cozy with Wall Street, Warren didn't exactly give the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner a pass. "I worry a lot about the relationship between all of our regulators, government, Wall Street," she said. "I worry across the board."
Ever since Warren unseated incumbent Sen. Scott Brown in 2012, her star has been on the rise in the Democratic Party, especially among progressive activists who see her as potential presidential material and have set up a Ready for Warren super-PAC in the hope that she will challenge Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
But while Warren’s economic expertise (and populism) is widely acknowledged, she’s less of a known quantity on foreign policy. Recent remarks defending Israel's right to shell schools and hospitals in Gaza renewed criticism of her "hawkish if hesitant approach" to international affairs — an issue that Warren will have to address as she broadens her role in the national party.
In Wednesday's Yahoo News interview, Warren went further than President Barack Obama on the question of how to deal with the barbaric terrorist organization known as ISIL or ISIS. Obama has largely pursued a strategy of containment; Warren, in contrast, argued that America needs to "close ISIS down. To end ISIS. To eliminate ISIS."
Asked whether Obama was being too cautious, she demurred.
“You'd have to ask the president," she said.
Still, Warren did not seem enthusiastic about the possibility of sending American troops back into Iraq, repeatedly emphasizing that the U.S. "should be working much more with all of the nations that have an interest in ending ISIS" to restore stability in the region.
"We can’t get pulled into another war in the Middle East," she said. "We can’t say we're going to be the ones who come in and do this by ourselves."
Although Warren has insisted in the past that she isn’t running for president, she certainly hasn’t shied away from the spotlight in recent months, releasing her ninth book, "A Fighting Chance," and stumping aggressively for Democratic candidates throughout the country. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that she has raised $3 million for her fellow party members — many of them running in red states — and has doled out 10 times as much in direct contributions for Senate hopefuls as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has.
Previously a Harvard Law School professor, Warren rocketed to national prominence when Obama backed down in 2011 from appointing her to head the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an agency she helped create.
Her withering critiques of Wall Street in the wake of the 2008 crash did little to endear her to Republicans — or the business community — but progressives who had been trumpeting the dangers of rising income inequality felt they had found a new advocate. In 2012 Warren soundly defeated Brown by positioning herself as the champion of a beleaguered middle class that “has been chipped, hammered, and squeezed” by a “system [that] is rigged against them.”
On Wednesday, Warren admitted that Democrats could lose control of the Senate in November's midterm elections. "Of course I’m concerned," she said. "I’m always concerned."
But she also argued that her party could stave off defeat by focusing on a populist economic message and supporting measures to raise the minimum wage, lower interest rates on student loans, and ensure equal pay for women.
"We’ve got a Washington now that works for anyone who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and it doesn’t work for regular families," Warren said. "But when you stand on the side of the American people, democracy is on your side."
Watch Full Interview: