Treasury This Moment
When Timothy Geithner was nominated by then president-elect Obama to be treasury secretary, longtime associates warned that the former Fed insider from New York was not ready for the job. Terms such as “unimpressive,” “out of his depths,” and “ill suited” were tossed around to describe the former Clinton Treasury official. Others pointed to Geithner’s odd speaking manner and his poor performances in testifying before Congress.
Now, much of the criticism of Geithner is being borne out, acknowledge White House aides and former Obama Treasury Department transition officials.
“We assumed that much of the [negative] commentary was the result of sour grapes,” says one former transition team member. “We took a lot of it with a grain of salt.”
Just how bad the pick of Geithner may turn out remains to be seen, but the indications thus far is it could be Obama’s greatest undoing given the central role the economy is playing in his administration.
“People think Wall Street and our economy are in a mess? They have nothing on what we’re going through here,” said a career Treasury Department official after learning in early March that former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission member Annette Nazareth had withdrawn from consideration to serve as deputy treasury secretary. Nazareth’s decision came the same day that Caroline Atkinson, an International Monetary Fund senior official, also withdrew from consideration as undersecretary for international affairs. The women would have filled two of the four deputy secretary slots that at press time remained unfilled.
At the time of their pullout, senior White House officials told reporters on background that Nazareth withdrew from consideration because initial feedback from the Senate was that she would endure a tough confirmation process due to her role at the SEC directing oversight of market regulation. But associates of Nazareth familiar with the situation say that there were other reasons for her to pull out. “She simply lost confidence in Geithner,” says a colleague of Nazareth’s at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.
It was rumored in Washington that Atkinson’s decision was the result of income tax issues similar to those that put Geithner in such a difficult position during his confirmation fight.
The withdrawal of Nazareth and Atkinson left Geithner with no senior aides focused on the economic crisis. “We have no one here. There is no leadership,” says another senior career Treasury official. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We have a secretary who seems to have no understanding of what his job entails, and no one in the White House seems either to know it or want to acknowledge it. We have people making decisions who shouldn’t be making decisions, and in positions where we should have people making decisions about our domestic economy, our banking system, and our Wall Street recovery plan, we have no one. People should be alarmed by this, but no one seems to care.”
The White House continues to look for ways to get President Barack Obama back in his speaking groove. As first reported by the The American Spectator (back on February 16), Team Obama won’t travel anywhere without a teleprompter to guide Obama during speaking appearances, and is even looking into how to hide video screens in podiums the president uses in the White House. Those screens would allow advisers to scroll speech texts, messages, and even statistical data or quick points to be made by Obama in answering press questions. “The screens are possibilities, but we’re also looking at some non-technology alternatives,” says one White House adviser, who points to President George W. Bush as a good example. “For all the talk about what a lousy speaker he was, he didn’t need a teleprompter very often. He used lots of notes and formatted binders to pretty good effect. It wasn’t smooth, but it worked for him; we’re looking at it.”
The thinking is that Obama is a good enough speaker who with notes or a detailed set of talking points could be that much more effective than Bush using those same tools.
In early March, the Obama administration declassified a Bush administration-era Justice Department memorandum written by staff members in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy and the White House Counsel’s Office, excerpts of which made it appear as though the lawyers believed that civil rights, such as freedom of speech, could be suspended. The document was treated as yet another smoking gun for the radical left in its campaign to prove the Bush administration had sought to take liberties with the American public when it came to civil rights.
Some Republicans—and even some congressional Democrats— credit Shauna Daly with leaking the document. Daly, who for about a month was ensconced in the White House Counsel’s Office as its research director, didn’t stay long in that position. She recently left that post, little more than a month after accepting it, to become research director at the Democratic National Committee. But DNC, White House, and congressional Democrats say she was at the counsel’s office long enough, wasting no time going through its reams of Bush administration documents related to such matters as the firings of U.S. attorneys, the use of and internal debate over the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, and the Scooter Libby and Karl Rove investigations, among others.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?