Like many other Americans, Tim Geithner would like to get as far away from the Obama administration as possible, the New York Times reports today. And like many other Americans, Geithner will have to wait another fifteen months to do so — at least if the White House gets its way:
Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary and dean of President Obama’s economic team, is expected to stay through the president’s term after intense White House pressure, according to officials familiar with the discussions.
But Mr. Geithner has not yet notified the White House of his intentions, and family considerations could still win out, advisers say.
Speculation from Washington to Wall Street has intensified because Mr. Geithner, the only holdover at the center of Mr. Obama’s original economic circle, said a month ago that he would decide on his future after the White House and Congress reached a deal to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. Mr. Obama signed that deal into law on Tuesday.
Not to mention the fact that Geithner has to catch up to the latest revisions in Turbo Tax. However, duty to the nation overrides such personal concerns, the White House argues. Well … that’s not exactly the reason Barack Obama and his chief of staff want him to stick around:
Mr. Obama and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, have been urging Mr. Geithner to stay, administration officials say, not only for continuity when the economy has weakened and to avoid an all-but-certain confirmation fight in the Senate over a successor, but also because Mr. Obama has developed a close rapport with Mr. Geithner.
Let’s take these one at a time, shall we? The economy has “weakened” only in the sense that it never regained sustainable strength after the end of the last recession. The latest revisions to the GDP show that very clearly. Given that Geithner helped to lead Obamanomics and quarterbacked the spending of over $800 billion in a failed stimulus, the fact that the economy weakened would be an argument to get rid of him, not keep him around.
Next, Obama expects an “all-but-certain confirmation fight” in a Senate controlled by his own party? Who does he expect to name as a successor at Treasury, Bernie Madoff? Republicans can grill nominees, certainly, and they can block the most controversial choices, but the Senate tends to give wider latitude for Cabinet appointees as any President should be able to choose his own advisers, especially since the terms of those advisers are limited. The real problem for Obama is that a confirmation hearing for a new Treasury appointment will necessarily turn into an inquiry of Obamanomics, which Obama wants to avoid.
As for the close rapport … who cares? Managing the Treasury and developing economic policy should rest on performance, not presidential palling around. By any measure, this administration’s economic policies have failed and have brought the US to the brink of a second recession. A real leader at this point would look for a different direction and find new people to take it. Obama would rather avoid public scrutiny and keep his weekly lunch date than deal with reality.
Under these conditions, Geithner shouldn’t walk away. He should run.