Tim Geithner: “Bankers’ poodle, Obama’s pet” — Andrew Cockburn

Only one of these people is still on Obama's economic team

In the comments on the Sunday links thread, we were discussing the shortage of leftist intellectuals these days, and then coincidentally I came across this piece at Counterpunch by Andrew Cockburn, who is a long-time nonconforming leftist like Noam Chomsky. In this recent article, he claims to be breaking some inside info about the recent shakeup on Obama’s economic team.

If Barack Obama needed any help in guiding the Democratic Party over the cliff he certainly got it from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Voters have told pollsters that the state of the economy, their own in particular, was their principle concern. Though impelled by the specter of unemployment and homelessness, the image of Geithner, toady to the bankers, can only have encouraged them in their fury. A sensible president would therefore already be running out the plank prior to giving this disastrous financial overseer an encouraging shove between the shoulders. But in this case, we may not be that lucky. CounterPunch can reveal the crucial role played in these matters by a group close to the President but unknown to the outside world.

A knowledgeable insider told Cockburn that despite Larry Summers’ reputation as a corporate tool,

“Larry has some idea that there is more to the economy than just the welfare of large banks,” this official suggests. “He did push for a larger stimulus and more jobs programs, for example. Tim just cares about banks.”

Cockburn claims that Summers’ firing was prompted by a little-known group of rich African Americans who dislike Summers because of his conflicts with Cornel West when Summers was president of Harvard. After a long dispute between the two, West left Harvard to join the Princeton faculty.

So who are the people in this group that has so much influence on Obama?

“These are the people Obama likes to hang out with. He plays poker with them, and takes their advice on financial matters” a former White House official told me. “They hate Summers for one simple reason: they think he’s a racist. They have never forgiven him for Cornel West [the eminent black scholar contemptuously ejected from Harvard by Summers when the latter was President of the university.]”

According to Cockburn, one of these influential men is George W. Hayward, a hedge fund executive who “has led Obama financially astray in the past.”

While Haywood and his pals were dissing Summers, Obama had come to actually like Geithner. Who knows why? Perhaps the life-long financial bureaucrat is good at explaining financial arcana to the innumerate chief executive, or maybe he is just adept at flattery. In any event, the relationship goes back some way. “Obama decided on Geithner for his Treasury Secretary in August 2008,” one former Treasury official told me, “probably at the urging of Mike Froman, acting on behalf of Rubin, Weill and Prince.”

Hmmm…I’d love to know who Haywood’s “pals” are. Maybe we can figure something out from that Muckety chart, linked above–or maybe Dakinikat knows something?

There is one more interesting tidbit in this gossipy article:

Once installed in the Treasury Secretary’s commodious office, Geithner’s first public address panicked the market into a 700 drop within ten minutes of his opening his mouth – even though he was announcing another bank bailout. Though Rahm Emanuel reportedly insisted thereafter that all of the Treasury Secretary’s announcements be cleared with him, the bond with Obama was unaffected. Perhaps, at this late date, the hapless president may be realizing that this was a mistake.

I wonder if Timmy was displacing Rahm in Obama’s affections too?

Discuss, or use this as an open thread if you wish.

18 Comments on “Tim Geithner: “Bankers’ poodle, Obama’s pet” — Andrew Cockburn”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I just love a little insider gossip!

    • dakinikat says:

      Hi, this is funny! You know Dr. West has an autobiography either about to come out or coming out. Maybe there’s some hints of the connections in it?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Keith Olberman back on-air on Tuesday.

  3. janicen says:

    This is so interesting. Nothing else matters to him but the success of the banks, not even Obama’s success.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Obama doesn’t have to fall for his game though. Maybe it is the flattery, as Cockburn suggested.

      • Seriously says:

        He seems like just the kind of little toady who knows exactly how to work Obama’s personality type. Make him feel smart, validate his decisions even as they flip 180 degrees from minute to minute. While O’s working David Brooks, Geithner is working the exact same mojo on Obama, but as long as he’s being stroked, he doesn’t even notice.

        • bostonboomer says:

          That’s the sense I get from Geithner too. I think he’s worked his way up the ladder by sucking up to the powerful.

    • Dario says:

      Maybe those in Wall Street who financed Obama, told him to bring Geithner as U.S. Treasury. As long as Obama is in office, Geithner stays. It’s part of the deal. If Obama loses in 2012, it’s because the economy is bad and then the GOP takes over. Heads or tails, Wall Street wins.

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    In studying Obama, one comes away with the impression that this guy pretty much based most of his “decision making” by counting on others to “mentor” him along the way. This worked in the Illinois legislature when he aligned himself with that rep named Jones who actually helped get his name onto bills that he had not worked on just to give the appearance of having done something.

    He gets to the Senate, ferrets out those who have enough clout to again “mentor” him, namely Ted Kennedy and Tom Daschle, both high up in the Dem stratosphere, to afford him time enough to turn on the charm as they worked in tandem on his behalf to boost him onto the national stage via the primaries.

    Now he seems to be leaning on other “mentors” like Geitner who have more experience in the area of economics to influence his thinking because this is what he has always done. Having little interest in the issues at hand, he seems to be quite content letting others point the way much as he did with Pelosi and Reid who had a much better grasp of how both Houses operated. Selecting Rahm Emanuel, a veteran of the House process, to push, pull, and shove the agenda through was another example of his leaning on “mentors” to shore up his position as president.

    I also seem to remember that “way back when” in Chicago he leaned pretty heavily on following Michele’s advice in how to climb the power ladder as she was firmly entrenched in the politics of that city and it was she who chose Rev. Wright’s church which was politically connected.

    Not being his “own man”, Obama leans on the “mentoring aspect” of his picks since he has no interest in the topic but is willing to take the credit for those working behind the scenes.

    He surrounds himself with “mentors”, i.e., Rev Wright, Tony Rezko, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, Tim Geitner, etc., because they do the “heavy lifting” for him. Immersing himself in the weeds is just too much work.

    • Dee says:

      “because they do the “heavy lifting” for him. Immersing himself in the weeds is just too much work.”

      Add Hillary to the list of mentors.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Yes, I seem to remember reading somewhere that he “cozied” up to her when he entered the Senate for those “historic” 300 days.

        And she would have been my first stop on the tour because if there was anyone who had all the answers to those pesky “test questions”, her answers would have been the ones I copied!

    • Sophie says:

      You are so right. And all that “mentoring” never moved any cause or issue forward. It was all about getting Obama to the next rung of his ladder. And each time for nothing but to get to the next rung. What a waste.

  5. Dario says:

    As far as I’m concerned, Obama brought hired his team and is responsible for the lack of improvement in the economy. The person that needs to be fired is Obama. We have to wait another 2 years to do that, but unfortunately, the voters may decide on a GOP candidate.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    This is so funny–I saw this video at Uppity’s place. Indian newscaster calls Obama “a newbie” who “hasn’t delivered much, even to his own nation.” With laughter. Also, “high-handed security tactics.”

  7. Dee says:

    How the Democrats shellacked themselves –
    The party has been caving to the wealthy since the Carter administration. Will anyone stand up for the rest of us?
    By Joan Walsh

    Her conclusion:
    “They still have a chance, but the window is closing, and voters are losing faith that Democrats are up to solving the nation’s problem. How Obama handles the GOP’s tax challenge could determine his party’s fortunes, and the country’s, for many years to come.”


    Joan is a late bloomer.

  8. Dee says:

    This is just sick…


    LOS ANGELES — Grocery store owners William and Esperanza Casco were making enough money to stay current on their mortgage, but when JPMorgan Chase & Co. offered a plan that reduced their payments, they figured they could use the extra cash and signed up.

    The Cascos say they never missed a subsequent payment, so they were horrified when the bank decided the smaller payments weren’t enough and foreclosed on their modest Long Beach home.”

    details at the link – http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40056344/ns/business-personal_finance