Unsurprisingly, President Obama is going to nominate Jack Lew, currently White House chief of staff, to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. Hardly a popular pick among Republicans since they view Lew as preachy and abrasive — though certainly a budget expert. Geithner without the charm. John Boehner better keep Paul Ryan handy during the upcoming budget battles. As the National Journal describes him:
At the center of this push will be Lew, a 30-year veteran of budget battles under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Tall and thin, with Harry Potter-like glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, he looks like a typical Washington technocrat, an image that belies his talent for combat. “He’s like a labor-union negotiator. He’s not going to give you an inch if he doesn’t have to,” says Judd Gregg, the Republican former senator and Budget Committee chairman. “He’s a true believer in the causes.”
More broadly, some on the right were hoping for a CEO or maybe Erskine Bowles — someone, anyone to inject a bit of fiscal reality into an administration that doesn’t seem to take the debt issue very seriously. Or at least the spending issue. Lew is there to push the Obama agenda, which means getting as much as possible of the $2 trillion in tax hikes the president has outlined. He doesn’t seem open to the idea that investment taxes hinder growth.
And both Democrats and Republicans wonder about Lew’s lack of financial market experience. What if the eurocrisis reignites, or investors finally get queasy about those massive US budget deficits? That may require a creative financial thinker rather than a career technocrat. Recall that Geithner previously was head of the NY Fed.
Little doubt the liberal Lew will be confirmed. But when he is, it should put permanently to rest the idea that Obama will ever “pivot to the center.”