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.
Shortly after four o’clock on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, 2011, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner walked down the hallway near his office toward a large conference room facing the building’s interior. He was accompanied by a retinue of counselors and aides. When they arrived in the room—known around Treasury simply as “the large”—four people were seated at a long walnut table on the side near the door.
Before we get to whether liberals will warm to Jack Lew, the incoming White House chief of staff, in a way they never did to his just-ousted predecessor, Bill Daley, it's worth pointing out that Lew is absolutely beloved by the president and the top West Wing operatives.
The search for Peter Orszag’s successor at the Office of Management and Budget hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. But it should. If the administration is talking about a policy change that involves spending or raising money, as most policy changes do, then the OMB director is going to be part of that discussion. As my colleague Noam Scheiber has reported, the two leading candidates to take over OMB have been Gene Sperling, a senior Treasury Department aide who held several positions in the Clinton Administration, and Laura Tyson, a Berkeley economist who also served under Clinton.
The first-day stories on Peter Orszag’s looming departure from OMB highlighted a number of possible successors.
Interesting aside from OMB Deputy Director Rob Nabors just now in a call with reporters about the spending freeze, in response to a question about the negative reaction from congressional appropriators*: I remember the president said something to me that always stuck. When we sat down to ask if both houses [of Congress] could pass health care bills, a lot of people reacted negatively [because it had never been done before]. But the president said, don’t bet against me.