CRF Blog

The Hot Seat

by Bill Hayes

In The Hot Seat for the New York Times Book Review, Michael Lewis reviews Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises by Timothy F. Geithner.

He’s written a really good book — we might as well get that out of the way, as so much else about Timothy F. Geithner remains unsettled. Geithner served as president of the New York Federal Reserve from late 2003 to 2008 and secretary of the Treasury from 2009 to 2013, and so sat near the center of the American financial system as it prepared to self-destruct. He then had a courtside seat to the global catastrophe. He has rich material to work with, and he has contrived to preserve its freshness. His inability as Treasury secretary to explain himself, or his actions, or the financial crisis, or his beliefs about financial reform, to the wider public will leave many readers, I suspect, feeling they are hearing his voice on these subjects for the first time.

“I had always been a backstage guy,” Geithner writes by way of general explanation, but referring specifically to his first, spectacularly unsuccessful, public speech as Treasury secretary. “I had spent my career behind the scenes. Ever since high school, I had dreaded public speaking. . . . I swayed back and forth, like an unhappy passenger on an unsteady ship. I kept peering around the teleprompter to look directly at the audience, which apparently made me look shifty; one commentator said I looked like a shoplifter….” [more]