20 March 2009

Don't Look for Geithner to Go

Chris Cillizza argues that proxies on the Sunday shows need to make the case for Tim Geithner this weekend, or else.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, under fire for his handling of the bonuses paid to AIG executives, faces a critical weekend as he fights to remain as the Obama administration's lead economic spokesman.

Although White House senior aides insist that Geithner is perfectly secure in his post, the fact that President Obama and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs both saw fit to express their "complete confidence" in him over the last 96 hour speaks to the level of concern in the administration about the situation.

In the very same post, though, Cillizza quickly surmises that Geithner's job is safe.
Given the Obama Administration's demonstrated skepticism about the shark tank that is politics in the nation's capital, it's hard to see them making what they would regard as a knee-jerk decision on Geithner. Barring any other future bombshells, the treasury secretary is likely to stay in his post for the foreseeable future.

Hmmm. I think the whole point of the post is to whet appetites for the Sunday shows, and not actually to speculate on Geithner's job security.

And while I think the Treasury secretary's image could use a little polish after a rough week, I certainly don't believe Geithner's job is on the hook, at least not this week. Obama can't afford to lose his Treasury chief right now. Firing Geithner (or caving to calls for resignation) would be the equivalent of throwing a stick through the spokes of the whole administration velocipede. Not to mention, losing the Treasury chief would panic the markets. That's one thing you can count on the administration not to do right now.

But chatter about canning the Treasury secretary amid a swirling banking crisis makes for high drama, right? And good ratings?

Cillizza perhaps has forgotten that this is the "no drama" president.

So where is Cillizza's rationale for throwing so much scrutiny on the secretary's job security?
[T]his weekend will play a role -- perhaps a major one -- in shaping public perception about Geithner. Can the administration prove the chattering class wrong again?

If I read that correctly, then Cillizza is priming the pump for Obama's talking warriors to go out and exonerate Geithner and endear the Treasury Secretary to the nation.

I look at this differently. Geithner is a key player, but this is the president's rescue. If proxies do their jobs we won't be talking too much about Geithner this weekend, we'll be talking convincingly about what comes next. Health care. Energy. Education reform.

Really, that's what's at stake. If the administration gets bogged down in the banking crisis and can't solve that problem, then the "failure" Republicans will show that politics as usual is still alive and strong in Washington. The administration won't be able to avoid all conversation about the AIG bonuses, and needs to spend some airtime taking those questions head on and answering bluntly: some stinky deals were made. But progressives who are tweaked at the Geithner/Summers duo for economic affairs also should not be rooting for Geithner's removal, even if Geithner's relationships with the banking industry appear too cozy at times. Losing Geithner is the one thing right now that's sure to jar the administration and stall the momentum on health care. Watch Treasury fail, and this congress will lose the stomach for comprehensive health care reform and the big spending that our schools and energy infrastructure will demand as well.

So I'm looking for the administration to gut this out. It's ugly, and it might take some bare knuckles, and the administration will probably get its nose bloodied, and progressives won't be happy and neither with the newly minted bloc of centrist Dems who are vulnerable already come election season, but don't look for Geithner to go anywhere.