Geithner Agonistes


Some basic points: what matters is whether he can make this work, a sane reckoning date for which would be a year or so's time. With respect to boo-boos so far:

1. The under-staffed Treasury has some liability:

The Treasury Department official says the fault [in late notification] appears to lie with career staffers at the department who failed to report the imminent bonus deadline up the chain to Geithner.

But it's Obama's and Geithner's job to staff it up - and Geithner's own tax failures that clogged up the process. Disadvantage: Geithner.

2. He negotiated the AIG deal in the first place:

Geithner's supporters argue that the AIG bailout was pulled together in less than one business day and that it's understandable that the bonus issue was not central to those negotiations.

Understandable, but it's a tough crowd. A wash.

3. The Fed-Treasury relationship is not close enough:

Close coordination between the Fed and the administration is now more important than ever as they near the launch of two signature programs to rescue the financial system, which together could reach $2 trillion and are aimed at reviving consumer lending and purchasing soured assets and loans from ailing banks.  

Could be just an unprecedented amount of crap to deal with. Bernanke's and Geithner's relationship seems fine to me.

4. The biggest deal: is Geithner too close to Wall Street to get the politics of this? Or is his closeness to Wall Street critical in bringing the financial sector along in picking up and rearranging its own doo-doo?

We'll see soon enough. Frankly, I see some screw-ups here, but I can also see a strategy that strikes a pretty good balance between competing demands of getting enough Wall Street cooperation to pull off a banking recovery, keeping public outrage from prolonging the recession, and enforcing new regulation on an out-of-control private sector.

Call me a shill if you want, but after a couple of months, I'm prepared to give the guy a chance.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty.)