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David Brooks and Ruth Marcus Discuss Obama’s Cabinet Picks, Economy’s Woes

David Brooks and Ruth Marcus weigh reports that President-elect Barack Obama plans to choose Sen. Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, among others, for Cabinet posts and the search for solutions to the economic crisis.

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    And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

    So much to talk about. David, let's talk first about Barack Obama's pick to be treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. He's head of the New York Federal Reserve. We already heard our economic experts on the program earlier say he's respected, highly regarded. What does this say?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, it says, among other things, that Obama is a confident guy, because he's surrounding himself with a lot of very smart other people. Geithner is two weeks younger than Obama, so he's just a little pup there.

    And he's pragmatic. He's very smart. He used to be a moderate Republican for a while and then felt the Republican Party left him, became an independent, but is not an ideological person. He served with Larry Summers and Bob Rubin in the treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. Apparently everybody in this administration has to have served in the Clinton administration.

    And the reputation was that Summers was the aggressive guy wanting to act; Rubin was the more cautious guy; and Geithner was the guy in the middle, casting the deciding vote, even though he was considerably junior to those two. Universally well-regarded.

    And so I think, one, it's a continuation of the Obama pattern over the last week of naming very, very smart, independent people, not cronies.

    And, two, it's a sign of continuation, since he's been so heavily involved in what's happened over the past several months.


    We should say, it's going to be announced on Monday, we're told. Ruth, what else does it say about Barack Obama?

  • RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post:

    Well, it's interesting. You know, we talk about no-drama Obama. It doesn't have quite the same rhythmic ring to it, but this is kind of no-drama Geithner.

    Everybody understood that Larry Summers, who was thought to be the other potential pick to be treasury secretary, who had held that job, exact job in the Clinton administration, was described to me by various folks today as bringing to the table perhaps more brilliance than Tim Geithner, who — I'm not suggesting he's slow in any way. He's a very, very smart man.

    But Larry Summers is one of the most brilliant economists of his generation. Less brilliance, but also less baggage. And he's — Geithner is a kind of no-elbows guy. He doesn't make enemies. He does things in a sort of smooth edges sort of way.

    And I think it's also — I think, in a sense, he's a little bit different, though, from some of the other picks that we saw reported from Sen. Obama — President-elect Obama. I guess we're going to have to get used to that this week.


    In what way?


    A little less edgy, actually. There were some risky, kind of dramatic, if you don't mind that word again, choices from Senator — President-elect Obama this week, obviously, Sen. Clinton, Eric Holder, to some extent…


    Attorney general.


    … because he did — as attorney general — did remind us of some of the baggage of the Clinton administration. Summers would have created more stir because of some comments that he made about women when he was president of Harvard and because of some other things. This one's less controversial.