Tim Geithner was a good hire. But Obama erred by keeping him too long. Three-and-a-half years too long.
House Republicans aren't as crazy as they sometimes act.
Two years ago I was interviewing Tim Geithner when he started ticking off the ways he was poorly suited to being Treasury secretary late in Obama’s first term. Above all, he said, was the fact that the job was increasingly focused on questions of values and ideology—how the government should spend its scarce resources, who should get the shaft and who should pick up the tab—whereas Geithner saw himself as a financial technocrat. “A huge part of the economic challenge the president faces on this stuff is that it’s going to be at the center of the political debate,” he told me.
If you’re gaming out what’s likely to happen during the next fiscal showdown a few months from now, there are two ways to interpret the legacy of the cliff episode, which ended when the House approved the McConnell-Biden compromise last night. For Democrats, the optimistic take-away is that the two parties set up a mechanism for getting deals done, which is roughly as follows: First, the White House works out a compromise with Mitch McConnell, which passes the Senate with a bipartisan super-majority. This effectively isolates the House GOP and tells John Boehner the game is up.
IN SEPTEMBER of 2011, a fortyish budget connoisseur named Maya MacGuineas was feeling demoralized. She couldn’t believe that Congress and the president had nearly let the country default on its debt rather than reach a major deficit-cutting deal the previous summer. So she did what she had become unofficially famous for in the wonk circles of Washington: She threw a glamorous dinner party. MacGuineas’s friend, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, agreed to open his Alexandria estate to a coterie of bold-faced names.