Opinion

Felix Salmon

Orszag on Geithner

By Felix Salmon
April 28, 2009

From Ryan Lizza’s long article about Peter Orszag in the New Yorker, here Orszag is talking to Jon Stewart in the Daily Show green room:

“I’m just the budget guy.” He added, more seriously, “I have to be more constrained, because it really is Geithner’s—so the more we talk budget the more free I can be.”

“He’s the bailout guy?”

“He’s the bailout guy,” Orszag said with a smile. “He gets sensitive about that.”

I’m sure Orszag was smiling, but I’m equally sure he wasn’t joking.

There are good reasons why Geithner would want to be Bailout Guy: the bailout is complicated enough when one person’s trying to explain it. If you get the likes of Orszag and Summers weighing in on it every time they’re asked, it becomes essentially impossible to keep message discipline.

On the other hand, testiness in a Treasury secretary is never a good thing, especially since it cuts against the no-drama-Obama administration vibe which never really survived the transition, especially not on the economic front. With Larry Summers in the White House there’s more than enough in the way of thin-skinned policy wonks already, we don’t need any more. The good news is that Orszag and Bernanke both seem self-assured. But Geithner, not so much.

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