It’s Lew Season – Catch the Fever!
Back in November, I proposed a round of the Treasury Secretary Dating Game and put forth the two most likely candidates: Jack Lew and Erskine Bowles. Well, this week, as expected, Jack Lew landed the job. On Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced that he will replace Timothy Geithner at Treasury. Since the Treasury secretary’s signature appears in the bottom-right corner of U.S. currency, Twitter and the blogosphere grabbed onto Lew’s oddly loopy autograph on Wednesday (it looks kind of like a stretched-out spring). Here’s a bit more about the man behind “the signature.”
Lew was Obama’s most recent chief of staff and he’s been around Washington for a long time. While Lew isn’t the Republican darling that Bowles might have been, he does have some qualities that the GOP side might like. As I mentioned in the other blog post, Eric Cantor was extremely complimentary of Lew during the previous debt-ceiling debate. That will come in handy, since a debt-ceiling debate will be one of the first things Lew deals with when he takes the new job. Lew cut his teeth under Tip O’Neill and was part of Reagan’s successful effort to reform Social Security. AND, he was on the Clinton team that turned a budget deficit into a budget surplus back in 1997. Lew also served as the chief operating officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments.
He’s definitely more of a liberal than Geithner, who was a disciple of Robert Rubin. However, he’s got a reputation of working well with Republicans. He’s somewhat less colorful (and in some cases, less of a bully) than other Obama advisors. I also doubt that he’s got a platinum coin in his pocket.
So while Lew is likely to be tough cookie for the Republicans to crack in any upcoming spending negotiations, he will likely be respected for his close attention to detail and ability to come up with bargains. Another good thing that the Atlantic mentions is that he will probably have an easy time getting confirmed – not something that all Obama’s appointees can brag about. Just getting leadership in place at Treasury is probably the best thing, as the U.S. approaches the debt ceiling and the debate that will no doubt ensue. To help calm the nation, during the announcement, President Obama jokingly assured the press that Lew had promised that he would work on his signature and “make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency.”