Sunday, March 22, 2009

Idiotic idea of the day: Geithner = Rumsfeld

Someone had to say it. Turns out it was Kos. Geithner is Obama's Rumsfeld? Apparently he floated that on a Tweet, so it's just that idea, not fleshed out (I didn't see it on Daily Kos). The man is a provocateur.

I'm glad Kos floated this idea, so I can shoot it down. I think this may be the stupidest idea I've heard all year. Let's see where this takes us, shall we?

Rumsfeld: Started a war that has cost thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars; repeatedly lied to the American public; tortured prisoners; ignored the Constitution when he wasn't shredding it; stained America's reputation around the world; and, last but not least, caused serious damage to the cause of upholding the rule of law, both within this country, and between countries. All of which was totally unnecessary.

Geithner: Missed the political ramifications of a few contracts in one company of the many that are in trouble; did not manage expectations perfectly when proposing how to solve one of the greatest crises in the history of the world.

Rumsfeld: Arrogant, tempermental, disliked even by ideological soulmates. Known to be a vicious bureaucratic fighter.

Geithner: Highly respected for his intelligence, work ethic, integrity, and character. I haven't heard any complaints about how he gets along with the rest of the Obama administration.

Geithner is attracting attention because of his job, not because of who he is. Pretty much anyone other than the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln would be a lightning rod as Treasury Secretary right now. This is what I call the "problem of unfocused anger." Many, many people are angry about our economic situation. They can blame Bush all day, but he's gone from office. So are Alan Greenspan and Hank Paulson. This unfocused anger needs a target. Desperately. It's like a hungry lion. A very, very hungry lion. It will find a target, regardless of how appropriate that target is. The anger is unfocused because it is combined with confusion. Theories and opinions about the source of this crisis abound; so do solutions. But the topic is so vast that no one person can begin to comprehend it. We need rules of thumb, heuristics, intellectual short cuts. We need something to argue about, and, ideally, someone to argue with. Whoever holds the job of Treasury Secretary is going to be that person for many people involved in the debate.

The comparison of Geithner with Rumsfeld is utterly superficial. Both were controversial and extremely powerful Secretaries. Other than that, they have almost nothing in common. One botched everything, pissed off millions of people, and left office in disgrace. The other is attempting the impossible. Geithner is like a man juggling torches. And knives and chainsaws at the same time.

I do not know if Tim Geithner will solve our financial problems. I do know he is one hell of a lot more qualified than me. There's a reason he has the support of Obama: he deserves it.

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