Treasury Secretary Hunt Pits Student Against Master

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This is not Summers' (l) best picture. Photo: Getty Images

A scant two days after the election, the list of who might become Treasury Secretary has been whittled down by those who whittle such things to two people: Larry Summers, the former Harvard president who served as Treasury Secretary at the tail end of Clinton's term, and New York Federal Reserve president Tim Geithner. "They are both highly regarded," an Obama insider tells the New Republic's Noam Scheiber today. "Very highly regarded. Very, very highly regarded." They also have a past, dating back to 1993, when Summers was serving as the head of the Treasury's international arm and hired Geithner, a deferential 30-year-old whom Scheiber describes as a "svelte and baby-faced" "man-child" with "teen-idol locks and a boyish voice" as his "consigliere." "In Geithner," he writes, "Summers recognized the perfect complement."

As Geithner and Summers rose within Treasury, Summers increasingly involved him in the most sensitive issues to cross his desk. When proposed aid packages came back from the IMF, Summers's chief of staff often found herself chasing down Geithner because, according to one colleague, "Larry wanted to know what Tim thought about it" before he'd sign off. When currency crisis deliberations degenerated into esoteric grad-school seminars, someone would invariably turn and ask, "Well, what do you think, young Mr. Geithner?"



Now, of course, mentor and student are pitted against each other. Which could mean an epic showdown. Like the one between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine! Will the young Geithner take his mentor and shove him down a shaft?



Probably not.



"My guess is that Tim would like Larry to be secretary," a friend of both told me recently. "He's the type of guy that, if Obama calls and says, 'I want you to be secretary of Treasury,' it's not at all implausible he would say, 'Mr. President, you should pick Larry.'"



Real life. So much less dramatic than the movies.


Obama's Choice [New Republic]