During her very first banking committee hearing, Warren again waited patiently for her turn to speak—then promptly set off a national furor. “Tell me a little bit about the last few times you’ve taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street all the way to a trial,” she asked a table full of bank regulators. The question, though eminently reasonable, violated an unstated rule of committee protocol, in which members of Congress are allowed to rant and rave at length but generally abstain from humiliating appointees, especially from their own party.
An awkward pause ensued, at which point Warren flared her eyes and thrust her head forward, as if to say, “Yes, this is really happening.” Until that instant, the regulators believed the world worked one way; suddenly, it was working another. One winced hemorrhoidally as he searched for a place to fix his gaze. The head of an agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) appeared to whimper before allowing that the threat of trial was unnecessary for keeping the banks in check—about as counterfactual a notion as the industry has ever produced. A third regulator chimed in affirmatively. For a few minutes, Warren looked like the only sane person in a mental ward.
Jenks grew up in Salt Lake City, but he has spent most of his working life in small towns. “Maybe I can describe it this way,” he says. “I like to play chess. I moved to a small town, and nobody played chess there, but one guy challenged me to checkers. I always thought it was kind of a simple game, but I accepted. And he beat me nine or ten games in a row. That’s sort of like living in a small town. It’s a simpler game, but it’s played to a higher level.” Jenks says that he is forced to have “a working relationship” with local methamphetamine users, treating their ailments in confidence. He explains that small towns might have a reputation for being closed-minded, but actually residents often learn to be nonjudgmental, because contact is so intense. “Someday I might be on the side of the road, and the person who pulls me out is going to be a meth user,” Jenks says. “The circle is much tighter.” He believes there is less gossip than one would assume, simply because so much is already known.