WASHINGTON— Timothy Geithner’s role in calming the financial crisis landed him the coveted job of Treasury secretary last year. That same résumé is now dogging him.
In his next test, Mr. Geithner will find out this week how lawmakers are treating one of his main goals—revamping the nation’s financial regulations—when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd unveils his new bill. In Washington, where perception can take on the status of fact, the political woes facing Mr. Geithner are diminishing his authority.
To boost his image, Mr. Geithner is waging a charm offensive. On Friday, he toured a supermarket in Philadelphia with first lady Michelle Obama to showcase efforts to reduce childhood obesity, an unusual event for a Treasury secretary. He demonstrated how a Treasury program offering tax credits in low-income communities can bring in businesses selling more nutritious food.
I’m still thinking that maybe, just maybe, the Secretary of the Treasurer should have some banking experience. Remember this? (Like not being able to pay his taxes wasn’t bad enough.)
It hasn’t helped that many people incorrectly think Mr. Geithner used to work on Wall Street. Sen. John Kerry made the mistake at a hearing last year. And during an April 2009 hearing of a panel overseeing TARP, Damon Silvers, associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO, made reference to Mr. Geithner’s having “been in banking.”
Mr. Geithner cut him off: “Actually, I have never actually been in banking. I have only been in public service.”
That should have been anybody’s first clue that Geithner isn’t qualified for anything other than pushing papers around some lowly governmental desk, and NOT being in charge of the Treasury and IRS.
“Well, a long time ago. A long time.”
“Investment banking I meant.”
“Never investment banking. Spent my entire life in public service.”
“Well, all right,” Mr. Silvers conceded.
When asked about the exchange, Mr. Silvers says he simply made a mistake.
255 days to go…