Alas, This Is Not a Joke

Maxine Waters will be the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. As Megan McArdle points out, no one has or will ever accuse Waters of bringing too much intellectual candlepower to bear on a particular problem of state:

Maxine Waters reliably delivers the craziest questions and the most bizarre speeches on that committee, and tends to demonstrate a stunning lack of grasp of the committee’s core subject matter.

The classic of the her oeuvre is, of course, the committee hearing on the financial crisis, in which eight heads of major financial institutions like Citi, State Street, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley were pretty ruthlessly grilled by members of Congress about how they had gotten the economy into the largest catastrophe since the Great Depression, and the greatest capital loss in history. Here is Maxine Waters, who uses her time to ask the following questions:

Did you raise your credit card interest rates or cut credit limits after you received TARP money? Do you require people to be delinquent before you talk to them about modifying their mortgages?

(To Ken Lewis of Bank of America): Have you offshored some of your loss mitigation specialists?

Why did you pay yourself fees to accept TARP money?

The last question might arguably be relevant except that when Ken Lewis answered “I have no idea what you’re talking about”, it became fairly clear that Maxine Waters didn’t either; she seemed unable to rephrase the question or explain further. After an awkward moment where everyone, apparently including Maxine Waters, wondered what the hell Maxine Waters was trying to say, Vikram Pandit, the head of Citibank, had to offer a guess as to what she might be asking after: the underwriting fees that the banks had paid in order to issue some of the debt that they needed to boost their capital.

 I invite you to contemplate the media derision that would have followed if a Republican with Waters’s gray-matter-resembling-thing and sparsity-of-neurons was asked by fellow Republicans to assume a similar responsibility.