Last Friday Tim Geithner unfurled a slew of four-letter words that were not TARP, TALF or PPIP while blasting the banking regulators charged with executing Obama’s overhaul of the financial system.
The tirade was odd because Geithner takes pains to present himself as levelheaded and “deeply pragmatic”–as he was described 29 times in the crisis book Fool’s Gold.
And it was unsettling, because career public servants who have spent the past year working hundred-hour weeks on bureaucrat paychecks would not seem to be the most deserving recipients of Geithner’s wrath.
But if there is one constituency with whom we figured Geithner might have ingratiated himself by unloading on regulators last week, it’s the Wall Street banks.
Unfortunately, it seems Geithner has now alienated this constituency, too.
Edward L. Yingling, the veteran top lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, said that no one should be surprised by the public challenges to the proposal that have been raised by regulators. “Each of these people are known commodities and people on the Hill and you and others know where they are coming from and their philosophies,” he said. “John Dugan was Republican counsel of the banking committee. Sheila has had strong views since she arrived at the F.D.I.C.. Ben Bernanke is very highly respected.”
Geithner ought to be the banks’ best friend in Washington — but only for as long as he remains politically viable. And what Yingling seems to be making here is the obvious point that Geithner doesn’t get Washington.
From what we’ve learned over the past few months, it seems clear he thrives in emergency situations and playing behind-the-scenes roles. But not every situation is an emergency. The flaws in our regulatory structure are not going to be solved by yelling at people who have significant public support.
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