The Making of Timothy Geithner

Also see:
Inside Man by Joshua Green
The Atlantic , April 2010

If Geithner were a character in a British period novel, he'd be the diligent son of the head servant, someone whose outstanding qualities are noted by the master and who, when the time comes, is unexpectedly rewarded with passage to university and the world beyond. He makes a deep impression. Almost anyone who has spent time with him can describe his effect on people. A senior Treasury official in the George H. W. Bush administration recounted for me, in vivid detail, 20 years after the fact, a single briefing that Geithner, then still in his 20s, had given him on Japan: "Within the building, Tim was already thought to be a superstar. And in my experience, he was brilliant. Incredibly well prepared, thoughtful. He still talked too fast, even then. But he was so on top of stuff, so impressive professionally, that there was a 'wow' factor in dealing with him. You'd hear how good he was, and then you'd deal with him, and then you'd think, 'Oh my God, the guy really is just better.'" Geithner's career follows a pattern of his being not necessarily the first, or the most obvious, choice for some important job, getting it anyway, and performing so well that he quickly advances, acquiring a patron in the process. He is the quintessential promising young man. And he has many powerful patrons.

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

VIdeo

Life as an Obama Impersonator

"When you think you're the president, you just act like you are above everybody else."

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

More in Video

Just In