The Sexy Secretary Takes All Comers, Including Vogue

Call it a policy charm offensive or the fruit of a long-suppressed desire to tell the world how much he resembles Lyle Lovett: Timothy Geithner is talking to Vogue, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. Let's compare and contrast!

Vogue, naturally, concentrates on what's important: Geithner's sexiness. Writes Rebecca Johnson, "A lithe and athletic 48 years old, Geithner, who was named one of the 100 most beautiful people of 2009 by People magazine (it may have helped that his brother works for the publication), has the kind of looks that can go either way: Half an inch one way he's John F. Kennedy; half an inch the other he's Lyle Lovett." To which we say: isn't Lyle Lovett considered attractive? And, um, which half-inch?

Let's not waste too much time parsing through the import of each of these stories. It's basically as follows: New Yorker: Geithner's policies are mostly working, but neither he nor anybody else in the Administration articulates these successes well; The Atlantic: Geithner has a long career in public service, but he is one of several Obama advisers who also oversaw the economy during the deregulation-happy 1990s, which fueled both the housing bubble and the explosion of dodgy financial products, and Geithner's presence now, to apply the remedy, is deeply ironic even insofar as Geithner's policies are mostly working, but neither he nor anybody else in the Administration articulates these successes well; Vogue: Geithner is pretty, cooks, has a wife who doesn't talk to the media, and his policies are mostly working, but neither he nor anybody else in the Administration articulates these successes well.

Instead of laboring over all that economic detail, why not play a round of a game I just invented, and have chosen to call Guess The Magazine? (Or, alternatively: Geithner vs. Geithner vs. Geithner.)

For your consideration: Rebecca "Not Mead" Johnson of thousand-pound glossy-haired gorilla Vogue, John "Butch" Cassidy of A Condé Title That Is Actually Good, and The Atlantic's Joshua "Lean, Mean, Financial Reporting Machine" Green. Let's begin!

WHICH MAG WROTE:

"If Geithner were a character in a British period novel, he'd be the diligent son of the head servant, someone whose outstanding qualities are noted by the master and who, when the time comes, is unexpectedly rewarded with passage to university and the world beyond." [1]

"On a recent business trip, Geithner and his entourage were trying to decide where to eat dinner. An aide suggested a popular restaurant, but Geithner nixed the idea, saying they'd never get a table. The aide laughs at the memory: 'I mean, he's the Secretary of the Treasury! He could get a table.'" [2]

"Unprompted by me, friends and colleagues extolled his skill and grace at windsurfing, tennis, basketball, running, snowboarding, and softball (specifying his prowess at shortstop and in center field, as well as at the plate)." [3]

"For all the wrath that has descended upon his slight frame, he appears to have succeeded in putting out another inferno. 'Why do policymakers screw up financial crises?' he said before I left his office. 'They screw up financial crises because the politics are horrible, and that deters action. They are slow and late and tentative and weak because they are scared to death of the politics. But sometimes a policymaker has to say, I'll take pain now against pain later.'" [4]

"'I am,' he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, 'incredibly angry at what happened to our country.'" [5]

"A few weeks ago, during a blizzard that deposited several feet of snow on Washington, I met Geithner in his office. Dressed casually in bluejeans and snow boots, he seemed to have largely given up hope of convincing the public that the financial-rescue plan was well calibrated, but he insisted that it had been necessary." [6]

"He wears off-the-rack Brooks Brothers suits and a black rubber watch." [7]

"He inspires an adolescent awe in male colleagues." [8]

"If you're invited to the Geithners' for dinner, the secretary himself will probably have cooked it. Barefoot." [9]

On why, back when he chaired the New York Federal Reserve Bank, he didn't warn the public about the growing derivatives market and the dangers it might founder: "'I don't believe in the Chicken Little stuff. It wasn't my place.'" [12]

"'We didn't embrace things we thought were unwise, even if they were going to be politically appealing, and we were certainly not going to embrace things that had a big risk of adverse consequences,' Geithner said." [13]

"Friends ascribe to him an almost Victorian sense of duty." [14]

"A recent title on his Kindle is The Places in Between, Rory Stewart's account of walking the length of Afghanistan." [15]

"His confirmation was jeopardized by the discovery that he had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes during the years after the Clinton administration when he worked at the International Monetary Fund — an error that himself had committed while using TurboTax." [16]

"Instead of paying an accountant to prepare his taxes, Geithner did them himself using TurboTax, a tax-preparation software program not designed to account for the way international companies pay their American employees. (As a self-employed person myself, I could have told him he was responsible for the entire Social Security tax!) It may be hubris to think you're smart enough to do your own taxes, but it's not criminal." [17]

"In the history of product launches, the rollout of the Obama Administration's plan to stabilize the financial system was in the category of Ishtar, smokeless cigarettes, and New Coke." [18]

"Geithner says he settled on stress tests as the centerpiece of the economic response in December, while sitting on a beach in Mexico." [19]

"Between March 9th and May 7th, when the results of the stress tests were announced, the Dow rose by almost two thousand points, and the spread between AAA and BAA bonds-a reliable indicator of financial distress — fell sharply." [20]

"On Wall Street, Geithner fit in easily and impressed everybody — so much so that in 2007 he was approached about becoming CEO of Citigroup." [21]

"At Capitol Hill hearings and other public events, Geithner himself, who has been a public servant for almost his entire career and has never worked on Wall Street, has sometimes been identified as a former investment banker. ('Why are you sticking up for your former colleagues at Goldman?' one interviewer asked him.)" [22]

Former Treasury colleague Joshua Steiner, quoted on Geithner's skill set, which apparently includes not getting lost: "The jobs he's held can be a real mixture of the absurd and the meaningful — one minute, you're in the room discussing complex matters of state, but if you miss the motorcade to the airport after the meeting, you're stuck. One wrong turn at the Kremlin, you're lost. Tim gets that." [21]

"He suggested that his critics draw up a balance sheet comparing the Administration's expenditures on programs that benefited Wall Street with those that benefited Main Street. 'By any measure, the Main Street stuff dwarfs the Wall Street stuff. Compare money for housing versus money for banks. Measure tax cuts for working families versus money for banks.' Geithner's figures are accurate. But he and the Administration have failed to persuade the public." [22]

His mom: "As a mother, I'll tell you, it has been hard." [23]

Are we enlightened? Edified? Disappointed we didn't learn his brand of watch? I'm only sad Vogue ignored the obvious: Geithner's ties. I was so looking forward to understanding the whys and wherefores of day-glo orange silk neckwear.

1. The Atlantic
2. Vogue
3. The Atlantic
4. The New Yorker
5. Vogue
6. The New Yorker
7. Vogue
8. The Atlantic
9. Vogue
10. The Atlantic
11. The New Yorker
12. The Atlantic
13. The New Yorker
14. The Atlantic
15. Vogue
16. The Atlantic
17. Vogue
18. The New Yorker
19. The Atlantic
20. The New Yorker
21. Vogue
22. The New Yorker
23. Vogue

No Credit [The New Yorker]
Inside Man [The Atlantic]
On The Money [Vogue]