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Hank Paulson, Colored by Numbers

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After much wooing, Henry M. Paulson Jr., longtime chairman and CEO of investment bank Goldman Sachs, has agreed to be the next Secretary of the Treasury. Have you heard? I would guess that you have. In the mere week since the announcement, his nomination by President George W. Bush has received the kind of coverage normally reserved for far more important developments, such as which African country Angelina plans to save next.

They say that there are three versions of each of us -- who we think we are, who others think we are, and who we really are. While I can't really help Paulson with the first or the third, if he's looking for details as to the second of those three -- who others think he is -- there's no better time for him to find out. A search on the Nexis news service for stories with the words "Paulson" and "Treasury" in the last month alone ran to 944 pages (in 10-point Courier font, for those who care) and nearly 445,000 words. While not all those words were expressly about the man alternately known as Hank the Tank and Hank the Hammer, there was enough about him to fill a few books at the very least.

In the last 48 hours, I have read most of those words. It wasn't that hard, mind you, as many of the same words began showing up again and again, leading me to the belief that I could create a composite version of the man himself, and save him (or you) the time required to read it all on his (or your) own. What follows is an unimpeachable analysis of just who, exactly, is on the verge of becoming the next U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Provided, of course, that the members of the media, who appear to be in large agreement on much of the following, are to be trusted.

What's his reputation on Wall Street?
Hank Paulson is a titan (12 mentions), but even more of a heavyweight (19 mentions). Given his accomplishments, the man is not only respected (79 mentions), but also occasionally even widely (5 mentions) and highly (18 mentions) so. He is staunch (14 mentions) in his beliefs, but what he really is above all else is tough (81 mentions).

What will he bring to his new job?
Paulson will bring to the job that which the chattering classes are worried that Katie Couric may not bring to hers: gravitas (9 mentions). This will lend Bush's economic policy some of the credibility (55 mentions) it so dearly needs. As a result, Paulson is almost universally expected to be quite influential (130 mentions).

What problem do Paulson's fans think he's particularly suited to address?
Paulson is the man to address our currency issues with the Red Dragon. You may have read about his seventy (50 mentions) trips to China in the past 15 years. He's so interested in the country that he's sometimes branded a Sinophile (3 mentions). That puts him in good company, with the likes of Quentin Tarantino.

Is there cause for concern?
While the nomination received near-unanimous bipartisan support, there is some consternation on the outer edges of the far right about his reputation as an environmentalist (34 mentions) -- both an ardent (8 mentions) and an avid (2 mentions) one at that. That has led some to label his nomination a poor choice and an unfortunate mistake. (Mind you, one of those labelers is a man who refers to global warming as a hoax.) Unfortunately for them, that's unlikely to get in the way of his confirmation. They can at least take heart that the man is viewed less frequently as a conservationist (23 mentions).

So what does he do in his spare time?
Hank is a birdwatcher (92 mentions). Since he mentioned it to a Fortune magazine reporter a few years ago, many journalists parrot the fact that he likes to go watch them in Central Park (21 mentions). He also told Fortune that until he went to college, he dreamed of becoming a forest ranger (4 mentions). When he's not dreaming or working, he might very well be fishing (45 mentions). And lest we forget, back in the day, he played football (58 mentions) in high school and at Dartmouth.

What did the reportorial corps fail to mention as often as they should have?
I was quite disappointed that Goldman Sachs was infrequently referred to just as a white-shoe firm. But maybe that's because there's a new color in town: Goldman blue (he bleeds it, his blood is.)

What's the overall conclusion?
Forget about Bono. With Hank Paulson, Bush's likely new Secretary of the Treasury is nothing short of a rock star (5 mentions).