Desperation Drives Geithner Into Arms of WSJ, Vogue

Two new profiles kick off a media offensive

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Move over, Peter Orzag: Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner is "lithe" and "half an inch" from being as handsome as JFK. That, at least, is the view presented in Vogue's new Geithner profile, which paints a homey picture of the embattled secretary cooking barefoot, and posing with his hands on his hips. The predictable mockery has already started. But with a Wall Street Journal story on Geithner coming out around the same time, there's probably a deeper motive to Geithner's newfound media prominence. Some say the secretary is being trotted out to counter bad press for both him and his policies.

  • 'Room to Maneuver,' But Not Much, decides Deborah Solomon in the rival Wall Street Journal profile of the Treasury secretary: "A January Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found 54% saying they either didn't know Mr. Geithner's name or were unsure of their opinion ... despite rising public discontent over bailouts and bonuses." She succinctly lays out the problem.
The bank rescues he helped engineer averted economic collapse. Yet to some lawmakers, Mr. Geithner looks weak. His association with unpopular financial bailouts has become an albatross. His neutral rhetoric on bankers' bonuses--the fat payouts are "very hard for people to understand," he recently told CNBC--spurs talk that he coddles Wall Street ... For now, Mr. Geithner appears comfortable playing the beleaguered warrior.
  • Futile Attempt at Image Control "The Democrats are terrified that Geithner's reputation for putting Wall Street first (deserved, in our opinion), will get them fired come November." explains Business Insider's Henry Blodget. He points to Geithner's trip grocery shopping with the First Lady, calling it a "new push to restore his image," but sees the Wall Street Journal profile as evidence that it just isn't working: it "merely underscores how angry everyone is at Geithner about the bailouts."
  • Geithner a Stand-In for Administration "The brand mavens have been assigned to Timothy Geithner," confirms popular finance blogger Yves Smith. She also notes that "the charm offensive seems to be targeting women." Smith doesn't think it will work: "if people are unemployed, having trouble meeting their expenses, or have had to make significant lifestyle adjustments, making them like Geithner (even assuming such a thing is possible) is not going to create a halo that extends to the Administration's policies."
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