Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner assuredly knew he had his work cut out for him when he assumed his position during these grave economic times, particularly after a testy confirmation process. But nearly six weeks into the job, critics from both parties are growing increasingly worried that his stock has dropped.
The former New York Federal Reserve president is an early riser. He arrives at the Treasury Department at 5:30 a.m. to work out at the gym, and is at his desk by 6:30. During the day, he can be seen at the White House with his boss, President Obama, and at Capitol Hill testifying before lawmakers.
But even some in his party have panned Geithner for not providing enough leadership at a time when unemployment is rising and the recession is worsening.
"The secretary has to lead, and he has to lead now, as soon as possible," Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. "They've [the Treasury] shared with people, sort of, how they're moving. ... I think they're going to, hopefully, move somewhere in the near term, and I urge them to do so. But I think they deserve the leeway to be able to make that judgment."
Last night, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a member of the Joint Economic Committee, said that Geithner made a mistake in not describing more details when he announced the administration's financial stability plan several weeks ago.
"The guy is extremely bright, but the question is not if he's bright -- it's if he has the political sense to lead us out of this mess," Cummings said. "One of the biggest mistakes he made was coming out initially with that speech. He was seen as the golden boy ... and then for him to come out, with everyone on the edge of their seats waiting for a specific plan and all we got were some 'rah rahs' and 'go team' -- that didn't sit too well."
To be sure, becoming Treasury secretary at a time of economic crisis is a thankless job, and Geithner's predecessor, fellow Dartmouth alumnus Henry Paulson, was also resoundingly criticized. Geithner, former New York Federal Reserve president, is praised for his even temperament, intelligence and work ethic.
Geithner's supporters argue that in five weeks on the job, he's accomplished a great deal -- the financial stability plan, the housing plan, the auto task force, restructuring plans with Citigroup and AIG, and setting new limits on executive compensation.
"No one else is positioned as he is now to help lead the country," said Scott Talbott of the Financial Services Roundtable. "He has a slow steady hand. He's not making knee-jerk reactions and overreacting."
But at a time when the nation needs economic reassurance and leadership, the knives sometimes seem out for Geithner. He's come under heat for his thin speech on how to fix the banking crisis, for not winning the confidence of the fledgling markets and for not filling vacancies at Treasury -- the department still has a number of job openings that need to be filled, as evidenced by the one picture of Geithner that hangs at the entrance of the department.
Obama's former rival, John McCain, R-Ariz., who was not particularly praised for having enunciated a coherent ecomomic vision during his presidential campaign, chimed in his views to CNBC, saying that what the administration and Treasury have been doing so far has not succeeded and is only worsening the situation.