Something struck me as either woefully uninformed or deliberately dropped into the middle of an otherwise fluffy Legal Times article on SEC general counsel David Becker. It was this:

Lawyers who have worked with Becker say Schapiro did the right thing by calling on a tested veteran.

The financial crisis “is not something you want a 32-year-old whiz kid to be necessarily weighing in on,” says William McLucas, chairman of the securities department at Wilmer and a former SEC enforcement chief. “Perhaps at no other time in history will we have the kinds of re-examination of fundamental regulatory issues that we’re going to have in the next 18 months.”

What follows this is a description of how calm Becker can be in a crisis and how his demeanor has helped negotiations any number of times, blah, blah, blah…but what it really does is justify hiring another revolving door insidery kind of guy as a Village player.

Which may be all well and good, since I’ve turned up nothing but nice notes about Becker thus far from any sources I’ve asked and no really negative feedback yet.  But that’s not always the case.

It certainly is not true that fresh ideas can’t energize and sometimes illuminate exactly what is wrong with "the way things are" inside the Beltway.

Take Benjamin Cohen, from FDR’s New Deal days:

For a time Cohen and Corcoran worked together extraordinarily well. They were the Hot Dog Boys, Felix Frankfurter’s Harvard Law School proteges who, from 1933 to 1940, teamed up to create one of the great lawmaking duos of this century. Together they transformed American public life by writing and pushing through such legislation as the Securities and Exchange Act, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Key programs of the New Deal such as the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act were swiftly dismantled by the Supreme Court. The legislation engineered by Cohen and Corcoran, however, withstood judicial review and remains today remarkably intact….

From the start it was clear Cohen was the soul of the team, the one truly committed to serving the public good. Cohen wrote the legislation. Corcoran rounded up the votes, relishing more, one contemporary recalls, the arm-twisting and exercise of power that got the bills passed than the impact they had on bettering people’s lives. In August 1937, The American Magazine described them this way: "Of the two men, Cohen is more the social philosopher, Corcoran more the lawyer working on an assignment with Uncle Sam as his client.’ When Corcoran left the government in 1940 to peddle his influence, Cohen stayed on, continuing to peddle his ideals.

You can read more about Ben Cohen’s extraordinary life in public service here, but that Legal Times quote above seemed an odd juxtaposition to me — either woefully misinformed or deliberately dismissive — designed to shut out fresh ideas from younger sources at a time when the current president of the US is a younger man.

It was likely just a bit of excerpted quote without surrounding context, or just an answer to a question posed by the interviewer for Legal Times.

But I thought it was worth a mention that listening to fresh ideas can often lead to great things in government. Including much needed reforms that insiders within the Village don’t always want to talk about — mainly because it would undermine the very policies they first put in place back in the day.

Which, frankly, can be the most needed changes of all, can’t they?

Of course, back in FDR’s day, the Village was complaining about the "young men" working with FDR’s cabinet, too. Must be a perpetual Village game.

(YouTube — Sting, Children’s Crusade.)

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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