Nobody anywhere knows how to fix what the Brits are calling the worst economic debacle in 100 years (i.e. worse than the Depression). Nobody really even has a firm point of view. So what do you do if it's your job to fix it?
One of Timothy Geithner's problems is that he looks insubstantial. He's boyish, cute even. And there's his kid-caught-at-cookie-jar smile. Oh, and then the fact that he's as confused about paying taxes as anybody else. Oh, yes, then too that he was the head of the New York Fed when Wall Street was blowing apart. If confidence is the name of the game, he sure hadn't come to the treasury secretary's job with a built-in advantage.
It may be that the thing most needed here is certainty. Consensus and good feeling aren't going to do it. Paul Krugman went after the Obama people the other day for courting bipartisanship. But Krugman is mostly looking for the president to use the present mess to gain liberal ground. He may be missing the larger point that it is not just having the guts to take a position, but having a certain brutishness, and arrogance, and hail Mary courage to ram your plan through. You've got to have righteous growl: If you doubt us, then the blame's on you.
Of course, having a position helps, instead of what there is now, which is more of the same, but spending more money to do it.
But mostly it's brutishness. A mean, implacable, contemptuous, arrogant face, willing to shoulder the burden and take the blame: That's the ticket.
Obviously, that person's available. It's hard to find a bigger brute than Larry Summers. We need a son of a bitch. We need him to be our son of a bitch...
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