Why is Barack Obama so loyal to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner?
That is the question people have been batting around all week inside the beltway, ever since the president gave Geithner the game changing embrace just before the State of the Union address.
The joking answer is: “Because Tim knows where Barack Obama’s real birth certificate is.”
But on Capitol Hill, Senate staffers have come up with what they regard as a more plausible theory. They think Obama looks at the case against Geithner as an accusation that his administration was too close to the banks during its first year. That’s an accusation Obama rejects, and so he rejects the case against Geithner.
“Obama doesn’t think he sold out to the banks in year one, so he doesn’t think Geithner did either,” a staffer told us.
This seems to be the dominant theory on Capitol Hill. Staffers on Capitol Hill think Obama has concluded that the critics of his administration’s handling of the financial crisis are overlooking “the crucial forest for the embarrassing trees,” in the words of one staffer.
“I had a guy from the White House tell me: ‘Look. You people want the heads of Geithner and Bernanke, the guys who saved our economy. We’re betting that 10 years from now, you’ll regret the narrowness of your politics and we’ll be proud of the achievements of our audacity,” a senior Democratic aide said.
He explained that those particular words are meant to sting on Capitol Hill. They are the language Obama used during his campaign, at a time when he was seen as obliquely criticising the failure of the Democratic party to inspire voters.