Massachusetts Maverick

Amy Chozick in The New York Times:

AmyWarren, the 64-year-old Massachusetts senator described by one reporter as “a strand of pearls short of looking like the head of the P.T.A.,” is not, however, out of central casting. A professor who spent most of her career teaching law students about bankruptcy, Warren is an unlikely icon for the Che Guevara T-shirt-wearing set. She didn’t run for elected office until 2011; the following year, she defeated the Republican Scott Brown to capture the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy. By the time she was prodded into running, Warren had been turned off by Washington, and her favorite activities were walking Otis, her slobbery and obese golden retriever; knocking back fried clams and beer with her husband, the legal historian Bruce Mann; and visiting her three grandchildren in California. Or, at least, that’s the narrative she lays out in a relatable, folksy voice in “A Fighting Chance.”

…Before she ran for office, she had become a leading expert in debates about predatory lending practices and bankruptcy legislation, as well as a thorn in the financial industry’s side. The idea that some banks are too big to fail, Warren writes in “A Fighting Chance,” “allows the megabanks to operate like drunks on a wild weekend in Vegas.” Families who fall behind on their debts are usually “desperately ashamed of their situation,” and have been saddled with health care costs or tricked into taking out subprime mortgages with egregious terms hidden in the fine print. That message first brought Warren national attention with her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke,” written with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi. In that book, they wrote about a meeting with Hillary Clinton in 1998 to discuss bankruptcy protections for struggling middle-class families. (Before Warren began her pitch the first lady “snapped her head sharply to the side and called to no one in particular, ‘Where’s lunch? I’m hungry.’ ”)

More here.