Kashkari faces major task as 'bailout czar'

Kashkari was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Economics and Development in July, but his immediate boss, Under Secretary for International Affairs David H. McCormick, has had to share him with Paulson quite a bit as Kashkari has attended to "Job 1 for the Treasury — for the country."

Skepticism of the government's ability to steer us out of this crisis is high — a wag commenting on a Wall Street Journal story jokingly dubbed the new bailout czar Neel "Cashandcarry" — but McCormick cautions anyone thinking Kashkari is too young and too inexperienced to shoulder such a monumental load.

"He's very analytic. He's very fact-based. He's very unemotional," said McCormick, sitting in the office suite from which Andrew Johnson ran the country in the wake of another national crisis — the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. "I don't mean lacking emotion toward the toll these housing market challenges are having on everyday Americans, the impact of the financial market situation on families. ..."

Kashkari said it's not as big a stretch going from aerospace engineering to reengineering a financial system as people might think.

"As an engineer, what I loved about it is I was solving problems, or we were trying to solve problems that no one had ever even tried before," he said. "When you think about the credit crisis, we're trying to tackle challenges, maybe they've come about in the past in different forms, but the situation today is by definition unique. So we're bringing all of our analytical skills to bear to try to solve this."

Geoff Johnson, who was one of four people on a Wharton "learning team" with Kashkari and has vacationed with him many times since graduation, said his old friend called to tell him about his appointment as interim bailout czar. He said Kashkari is under no illusion that he's doing this by himself.

Johnson, a hedge fund manager, quoted him as saying: "This is still Hank's project. ... I'm just here to make it happen."

Kashkari's father added in an interview with The Akron Beacon Journal: "I am sure God will guide him. He loves this country. He is proud of this country. He feels America is a country that can bring peace and prosperity to the world."

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