The ‘Unflappable’ Mr. Geithner

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 18, 2009 6:33pm

ap obama geithner 090318 main The Unflappable Mr. GeithnerHouse Republicans smell blood.

Congressional Democrats are frustrated with aspects of his performance.

But Obama administration sources insist that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is "unflappable" and that there’s "no daylight" between him and President Barack Obama on how to handle AIG or the broader financial crisis.

The betting against Geithner holding his job into next year may have risen on Intrade over the last week, but Obama’s backing all but guarantees that Geithner won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 

As one well-placed Democrat put it, members of Congress might "grumble in the cloakrooms but that’s it," as long as Obama has Geithner’s back.  That should stop any internal administration moves against Geithner too.

But to shore up his long-term position Geithner needs two things:

1) His story on the AIG bonuses has to hold up.  The Geithner team insists he wasn’t briefed on the scope of the bonus issue before last week, and that he did what he could as soon as he found out. 

But a source from the AIG camp points out that one of Geithner’s top deputies at the NY Federal Reserve Bank, Sarah Dahlgren, was briefed on the bonus plan at AIG headquarters on November 11th. 

Administration and NY Federal Reserve Bank officials insist that it’s not unusual that this information was not passed up to Geithner given the rush of other issues they were dealing with then, adding that Geithner began to pull back from daily business at the NY Fed once it was clear he would be nominated for Treasury Secretary. 

But the questions about what Geithner knew, and when he knew it, won’t stop yet.

2) His roll out of how to deal with all those "toxic assets" in the banks has to work.  Will it boost the banks enough to delay the need for another round of TARP money  until this populist fire cools down a bit?    Will he find the sweet spot — a plan that’s tough enough on the banks to appease an angry public but not so tough that it tanks the markets?

Final details are being nailed down now, and administration officials say the announcement is likely either Friday or Monday. 

–George Stephanopoulos

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