Tim Geithner Says Washington Is 'Even Worse Than You Think'

Former Treasury Secretary tells his side of the financial crisis in new book, "Stress Test."
4:16 | 05/12/14

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Transcript for Tim Geithner Says Washington Is 'Even Worse Than You Think'
Tim geithner was right at the government's response to the financial crisis first as the head of the federal reserve and as president Obama's first treasury secretary now out with a new book "Stress test." Reflects on financial crises. Tim geithner, welcome to "Gma." Actually I love that title "Stress test." A nice play on words. It gets what you guys did to the big bank, gave them the stress test but what in some ways Washington did to you. You know, it was a pretty dark moment and, you know, I wanted to give people a sense of how it felt to land that burning plane. Why we did what we did and were able to ultimately even this messy broken political system was age deploy the force of the United States not to just prevent a great depression but get the economy going in styx months. One thing you struggle with in the book, people till don't buy it and believe you were protecting banks at your expense and banks think you were refusing public opinion at their expense and looking back any way out of it. I don't think so. In a financial panic, the most important thing you have to do, again, to land that plane safely is make sure you do everything possible to keep the lights on in the financial system because we don't like to admit it but the financial system is absolutely critical to the economy functioning and if you let the lights go out it's devastating. So what we did was try to make sure that we kept the system functioning and got the economy going again. So what's the simple answer to critics like Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, who said you focused too much on big financial institution, not enough on family. By the way, I have a lot of respect for her and is a great person but general view that what it takes to put out a financial crisis and it's a mistake in view, let the fire burn, you should worry about putting people in jail. Although that's an understandable position, if you do that like we saw in the great depression you cause amazing damage to the innocent victims of the crisis so first obligation, land that plane safely and then you can figure out how to reform the system to make a crisis not likely in the future. It takes a toll, though, a personal toll on you and you write about that. Also I thought it was a very resealing moment a conversation with your daughter where she compared your situation to the military fighting overseas and says at least the public believes the military is fighting for them. Much harder for your family than for me because I'm in there fighting, deciding, trying to decide what to do but they have this huge loss of privacy. You write about the scene, Jon Stewart show. It was my daughter's graduation day and we were trying to sell our house so they could move to Washington with me. Tough housing market. Terrible time. This he did what they probably was a tempting thing which was to use that as an example to say -- to explain that congress feels terrible. Even the secretary of the treasury couldn't sell his house. Did you get a -- Rented it. Moved back into it. You tried to resign several times. I was surprised to read when you were finally leaving you suggested to president Obama that Hillary Clinton replace you. Well, I had a lot of good ideas for the president. She was one of them. She would have been excellent. Do you think she would have been a good treasury secretary. She could be a master of that. Is she a candidate for president next time around. I have tremendous confidence in her. I think she's terrific. Is she a candidate for president next time? I'm not the person -- You're not going to answer that. One final question. Of all the lessons you learned what is the single most important thing that Washington can do to prevent the next crisis? Really two things I would say. One, you have to build and maintain. Very strong shock absorbers against risk in the financial system. When you don't do that it's devastating but keep a strong fire station there so when things fall apart you can deploy massive financial forces as quickly as you can, not to protect banks but protect people from the consequence, the unemployment that follows financial crisis. The book is called "Stress test" available starting today.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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