There was minimal doubt President Obama would keep Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at his post. If Obama were in his second term, or for some other reason not running for reelection in the near future, he might consider cashing in on the near-term gain in public approval that would come with holding his own administration accountable for the mess the president and his advisors have made.
Instead, the president had his “decider” moment—though with less emotion and fanfare than his predecessor’s. The president “asked Secretary Geithner to stay on at Treasury and welcomes his decision,” reads the recently released statement. But make no mistake—this was the moment Obama echoed George W. Bush.
“I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I’m the decider, and I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense,” President Bush told reporters in April 2006. Rumsfeld had been taking heavy criticism from all sides for his stewardship of the Iraq War. Congressional Republicans were hoping Bush would fire Rumsfeld before the mid-term elections that fall, allowing someone to take the blame before the GOP faced the voters again. They had no such luck; Bush kept Rumsfeld until after the elections, when it became clear the public needed to hold someone accountable, and then let him go.
Geithner’s time as Treasury secretary has been, by any honest account, miserable. The administration’s policies have failed even by the president’s own metrics, leaving Obama and Geithner with no reasonable defense of the policies. So Geithner tried to leave, and the administration asked him to stay. He tried to leave again this week, and the administration asked him to stay, again. But Geithner has been there since the beginning, and there is no escaping his responsibility for the administration’s economic policymaking—he either concocted the schemes or assented to them. Which of the two doesn’t really matter at this point, primarily because Obama has been consistent in one regard: he refuses even to consider accepting responsibility for anything, instead choosing to blame his political opponents.
We’ll see if the voting public buys it. They usually don’t.