Geithner Causes, Feels Your Pain


Rebecca Johnson's profile of Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner in the current issue of Vogue does not, unfortunately, include a 10-page spread of Geithner modeling the Rodarte summer line, but it's worth reading anyway just to witness the most wide-eyed press hummer given to a public official since the fall of Nicolae Ceau?escu.

Geithner: Couldn't you just kiss him?

Wondering how the "affable…lithe and athletic" secretary (one of People's 100 most beautiful people of 2009!) deals with all the "vitriol against him" and "off-with-his-head rhetoric?" You'll be relieved to know that Geithner, one of the "nice guys" of Washington, keeps a "sense of humor about himself" and "doesn't want to dwell on the negativity."

This may come as a surprise to anybody familiar with Geithner's prickly and dismissive demeanor in congressional testimony, his habit of hollering at subordinates, and his hostile, evasive answers to SIGTARP Neil Barofsky. Hilariously, Johnson recounts the episode in which Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) called on Geithner to resign and concludes that the secretary "deflected the attack with admirable equanimity."

You can check out that incident here. There is a standard response for any public official who is called on to resign: "I serve the president and if the president asks me to step down, etc. Thank you for your input." You can find many qualities in Geithner's snippy, raised-voice, contemptuous response, but equanimity is not one of them.

Johnson's profile also contains plenty of "he may seem perfect, but actually he's totally awesome" fake balance: "[T]he calm exterior belies the truth of Timothy Geithner, who is very smart, very angry, and more than a little relieved that the economy did not tank further than it has." As every hack knows, the way to get this kind of balance is to limit your source list to the subject himself and the various pickthanks and sycophants who surround him. Thus Johnson's case that Tim Geithner saved the economy is bolstered by none other than…Tim Geithner:

Indeed, as bad as things look today, it could have been worse. A lot worse. "We were starting to have a classic bank run, people were starting to take their money out of banks, something that hadn't happened since the Great Depression," he says, defending the initial decisions in the crisis, some of which have started to smell a little foul with the passage of time (particularly the generous terms for AIG's bailout). "The things we had to do early to fix the financial system were really important, and we got them basically right. Nothing else was possible without them. The reality is that financial crises are unfair and cause huge damage to innocent victims, but it would have been more unfair not to act aggressively because it was unpopular."

I get it that women find Geithner, with his lost-puppydog look and Jack Nance hair, adorable in the way women think nonthreatening men are adorable. If you were looking for a host of a beauty pageant, you really couldn't do better. But the demands of his current job have revealed Geithner's true ethical model: Leave It To Beaver's Eddie Haskell, the suave, wheedling, silver-tongued rat fink whose affability conceals a core of pure self-interest and manipulation.

There's plenty more, including Johnson's rejection of the crazy notion that Geithner's tenure as head of the New York Federal Reserve might earn him some blame for the credit bubble and bust, her citation of Geithner's publice-sector-only work history as a point in his favor, and her bizarre belief that criticism of the secretary is limited to "the blogosphere and some of the more liberal publications." But we haven't got all day, so I'll just say Johnson saves the best for first, with this painstakingly bogus lede asserting that Geithner is that rare public official who understands our anger:

If last year's bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. "I am," he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, "incredibly angry at what happened to our country."

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