Yves Smith suggests, in light of this NYT front-pager, that the administration may be distancing itself from Geithner. Unfortunately they may be drawing the wrong implications:
Thus what is surprising about tonight’s New York Times story, “Member and Overseer of the Finance Club,” on Timothy Geithner is not its content, but that it was written at all, and moreover (as of now) is a front page item. It’s extraordinarily long for a weekday story. the number of column inches usually reserved for natural, not bureaucratic disasters.
Any reader of any remotely plugged in econoblog, or savvy enough to read between the lines of MSM reports will know that Geithner is a creature of the financial establishment. Probably the most important element in his pedigree is that he is a protege of Larry Summers and Bob Rubin. It also appears that he and Summers are working fist in glove (witness the marginalization of Paul Volcker).
At a minimum, Geithner crony capitalist policies are finally leading to a hard look at his loyalties. There is no reason to think Geithner is personally corrupt (well, there was his little tax problem) but rather that he is as die hard a believer of finance uber alles as Alan Greenspan, albeit without the libertarian zealotry.
Of course, if one were Machiavellian, this move may be Team Obama realizing rather late that they have made the success of Obama’s presidency contingent on the Summer/Geithner program, and now they are trying, even more so than before. to pin the policies on Geithner.
As Smith says, if that last speculation is true, it’s really bad politics. If Geithner and Summers fail, Obama takes the hit. (And, for that matter, he should — he hired them.) If the plan fails, it badly hurts the incumbent party, period — pin-the-blame-on-cabinet-secretary is a parlor game only of interest to insiders. If Obama thinks that their plan isn’t working, he needs to get rid of them.
I strongly recommend Kate Sheppard’s piece on the EPA’s new determination that “that planet-warming greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare,” both because it provides valuable information about the new policy shift (as well as its limitations), and it’s a good example of why so much policy-making gets delegated to the executive branch.
I will say that where I am in agreement with the optimists is on DeLong’s point 2 here — the politics. I don’t think a quickly exhaustible store of “political capital” is the appropriate metaphor here; the financial crisis is not like health care, not least because it’s in the interests of many powerful social and political actors to have the financial crisis solved. If anything, nationalization will be more viable if the Geithner plan fails. (And if Brad is worried that he’s disagreeing with Krugman, what ’till he hears that we’re agreeing with Mickey Kaus. Obviously, I’m missing something.)
The problem is that the political question is less important than the substantive question; even if the better option isn’t foreclosed, it’s still not desirable to do the worse option first unless it’s necessary. So the question then becomes whether or not a Swedish-style nationalization is politically viable right now, and I don’t know the answer to that question. If it isn’t, Geithner may be the worst option except for all the rest, but if it is and Obama just doesn’t want to go to the mat, I still think Krugman is right that it’s a serious mistake.
Seems like a good choice. Certainly, among Washington state politicians I always preferred him to Gary Locke...
I can’t add much to what Greenwald says here and Wheeler argues here, but the Obama administration’s use of Yoovian theories of arbitrary executive authority are indeed appalling.
As someone who observed much of Locke’s governorship first-hand, I would say that just as he looks better on paper than in practice as a national candidate, so he wasn’t nearly as good a governor as he should have been. He was sort of a Naderite parody of a cautious Democrat — when it came to political capital, his accumulation-to-spending ratio was roughly 100-0, and in particular he was notably ineffectual in responding to the tax reform nitwits trying to emulate California’s wonderfully effective fiscal straitjacket.
Having said that, commerce secretary seems like a good job for him; he was a competent enough administrator, this job doesn’t require bold agenda-setting, and he certainly won’t rock any boats.
As Ezra points out, as did a certain visiting dignitary yesterday, it must be said (painfully in my case) that the initial returns on Obama going with the “inside the tent pissing out” strategy with Lieberman have been positive. During the stimulus debate, at least, the urine did not end up primarily on the feet of the Democratic leadership as I had assumed it would. It’s still too early to judge definitively; we’ll see what happens with health care. But, at the very least, a good reason to trust Obama’s judgment for the time being. If it can buy good votes and fake-“centrist” cred among the Villagers, I can live with Joe keeping his perks.
A couple of commenters in the previous thread have asked about who I’d like to see chosen if (God forbid) Ginsburg is forced to leave the Court. I addressed this in a post a while back. I still like Kagan, but I assume Obama would want her to get more seasoning as Solicitor General, and that’s OK with me. Of the other candidates being mentioned, based on what I know, I find Diane Wood an especially attractive possibility. Jennifer Granholm is interesting. Myself, I think someone with her background would be a useful addition to the Court, but Obama may be reluctant to go against recent norms that emphasize judicial experience and I don’t feel strongly enough about Granholm to object very strongly. Kathleen Sullivan would also be a good pick; she has a lot of expertise in the LBGT issues likely to be more important in the federal courts in coming years and has a solid record.
In re the appointment of Judd Gregg to commerce, Beutler snarks:
Surely Gregg’s desire to replace himself with somebody who will often oppose his new boss’s agenda is evidence of his deep commitment to the administration, the cabinet, and the agency he appears poised to head.
As a reason to dislike the appointment, this is fair. But it should be said that on the merits Gregg is of course right to insist on a Republican replacement. As much as I want 60 seats, it would be ridiculous for Gregg’s personal ambition to effectively overturn the results of the last election.
There is, of course, a way to solve these kinds of problems. As has been mentioned recently on this very blog, I don’t think there can be any serious question that vacated Senate seats should be filled by special election. For executive positions, having an immediate replacement in place is necessary, but that’s not the case with legislators. Until his state does it right, though, Gregg is right to insist on a Republican replacement as a condition for taking the job.
…bloggers are actually taking useful roles in government. As we’ve mentioned before, Lederman’s hire is especially encouraging but they all look impressive.
And even if he wasn’t a blogger, it’s nice to have Holder rather than Mukasey heading Justice. Wheeler has the rollcall.
Says it all, doesn’t it? And, of course, good that the new Congress acted so quickly to overrule the odious Ledbetter decision. Although the Republican argument that civil rights are OK as long as nobody can enforce them is certainly very compelling!
…while the link at Feministe is down, see here.
Obama is apparently urging House Dems to strip birth control funding from the stimulus bill. While this would be wrong on the merits, as Matt says what’s even worse is that the Dems seem to be getting absolutely nothing in return. Indeed, Obama should be moving in the other direction; since at this point it’s obvious that there’s essentially no chance that the Republicans will vote for the bill, and it will make no difference to any future election how many Republicans vote for it (voters will give Democrats the credit or blame irrespective of the final vote), the Dems might as well pass the best bill they can.
[X-Posted at TAPPED.]