Those who are already skeptical of Tim Geithner will find more reasons to distrust him in this morning’s massive Times takedown of the former New York Fed chairman, now Treasury secretary, which reveals, among other things, that Geithner, who served on the board of one of former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill’s charities and was mentored by Citi consultant Robert Rubin, was approached to be CEO of Citigroup in 2007, after Chuck Prince was fired. We know we’re supposed to find this evidence of Geithner’s intimacy with one of the largest recipients of government bailout funds worrying, but we can’t help but be distracted by the feeling that this man is actually cursed by the universe. Think about it: He passed up the chance to be the most hated man in America, only to become the second-most hated man in America?
It wasn’t just Citi he was close with, though. Geithner’s schedule, which the Times obtained by FOIA request (all 658 pages of it are now online), reveals he had relationships with many Wall Street muckety-mucks: Entries show breakfasts with Dick Fuld, lunches with Lloyd Blankfein, a “casual” dinner with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Is this really evidence of, as the Times puts it, “unusually close relationships” with Wall Street CEOs? Economist Joe Stiglitz seems to think so, and proffers the somewhat condescending observation that Geithner was a goodhearted but hapless victim of peer pressure.
“I don’t think that Tim Geithner was motivated by anything other than concern to get the financial system working again,” Mr. Stiglitz said. “But I think that mindsets can be shaped by people you associate with, and you come to think that what’s good for Wall Street is good for America.”
We’re not so sure, though. If he really wanted to be part of that culture, he could have just taken the Citigroup job. And really: How can you expect the man to pass up an invitation to Jamie Dimon’s barbecues? They’re obviously amazing.