The emerging conventional wisdom is that the appointments process is broken:
H. Rodgin Cohen, “the leading candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, has withdrawn from consideration,” George Stephanoupoulous reports. He adds, “Cohen had risen to the top after the withdrawal last week of expected deputy treasury secretary pick Annette Nazareth.”
Something’s wrong with this picture.
Maybe there is something to that. On the other hand, this is a description of H. Rodgin Cohen at Naked Capitalism:
Sullivan & Cromwell has long been the outside counsel for Goldman, and outside counsel is a vastly more important role for a securities firm than just about any other type of business. In the stone ages, when I worked for a few years at Goldman, certain S&C partners had so much clout at Goldman that they could get a mid-level banker fired. And even then, “Rodg”, head of the banking practice, was a very influential figure at Goldman.
After I left Goldman, I was involved in a behind the scenes role on a deal that broke new ground from a regulator standpoint. Cohen was representing the other side, the target of a minority investment. I was later told by a senior bank regulator that Cohen worked against my client’s interest in a particularly duplicitous way.
So Cohen is not only deeply tied to entrenched interests, but he plays a ruthless game, with a mild manner that would lead you not to suspect him of that sort of behavior.
Considering the role Goldman Sachs and other ruthless insiders had in creating this mess, I’m thinking it is pretty clear the appointments process and the tough standards Obama has set are working as intended.
he’s a lawyer. that’s his job.
It figures that the new meme is that Obama’s standards are too high, so he will have to lower them in order to staff up adequately. Of course, when he did issue exceptions for a couple of former lobbyists, the same folks went into full-panty-twist mode and hollered "hypocrisy!"
High standards? Hardly! The nominees keep getting tripped up on their past activities after they are nominated. This obviously means its not working.
Carry on, country first.
I had a really bad feeling about Cohen, so I am not sorry to see him go.
Oh, I don’t don’t that the process is preventing some bad appointees from taking important jobs. The problem, though, is that it’s preventing far more good ones from doing so.
I didn’t vote for Obama and am in no hurry to see him implement policies I consider dangerous. But he was elected. And it’ll be a year or more before he has his team in place.
I’d rather have someone who is qualified and ethical than someone who is brilliant and not ethical. Yes, ideology is getting in the way of getting things done. But as long as the ideology is one that can change Wall Street from what it is now–meaning: insular, corrupt, stupid, and not good for the long-term health of our nation–I’m okay with some delays.
Obama: can’t work fast enough for his critics to complain about how fast he’s going, unless he is too distracted by other things that some people would rather he never look into, unless he will reform them in accordance with McCain’s latest campaign plan (dated: five months after he lost the election.)
@James Joyner: You’re a good American JJ, many people who disagree with Obama would rather see the country fail and all of us go down with it than see center-left policies work.
Last week Geithner appointed Kim Wallace, ex chief political strategist at Lehman Brothers, as assistant secretary for legislative affairs.
The new regulations on Wall St will be written by Wall St.
Don’t be a bigoted idiot, cleek. The vast majority of attorneys I know practice with integrity and professionalism. There are exceptions, of course, but you’ll find duplicitous assholes in every walk of life.
So far as Wall Street lawyers like Cohen go, consider his clientele: I’m sure they’re perfectly matched., which shouldn’t surprise you.
One comment in John’s link that really grabbed me was this: We should operate from the assumption that Geithner will always surround himself with the most awful Wall Street cronies imaginable. He’s totally captive to that ideology.
Geithner has to be Obama’s worst pick for this position. While he claims he "gets it" so far as the Banks are concerned, his Treasury Secretary doesn’t.
Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of Cohen, either, and I’m glad that Obama’s vetting process weeded him out. Ultimately, the reason Obama’s having trouble staffing treasury (IMO) is because it’s difficult to find people with the knowledge and experience necessary to fix the system, who weren’t in some way complicit in breaking it.
@XYZ: Who watches the watchmen, indeed.
The Other Steve
There’s a lot of things people complain about, claiming it to be broken, that I don’t understand the source of.
A nomination process which finds people who have problems and tosses ’em out is broken?
Also public schools… why do people keep claiming they’ve failed?
@The Other Steve:
Exactly, seems to be working to me. I get nervous when a den of snakes proclaims itself venom free.
Its working just fine. Shitty candidates are getting weeded out before the hire.
I’m actually a little heartened by the whole thing myself.
So can we have a list of clean candidates? Or has everyone who has ever been in government cheated on their taxes?
You can have clean candidates, but they will all be academics with no useful experience. I personally think that Cohen was a brilliant choice, and I’m extremely disappointed that it didn’t work out. There is no one in this country who knows and understands the regulation of financial institutions better than he does, and there is no reason to believe that he would not have been effective in the position. (Note: as a lawyer, I get really frosted when ignoramuses can’t or won’t get that lawyers who move from the private sector to government bring with them the same values of zealous advocacy, and easily realign their interests).
Having a hen house guarded by foxes is not inherently bad. They certainly know where the vulnerabilities are. The key is providing appropriate oversight for the foxes.
One more thing: didn’t we go through this whole stupid exercise of pillorying a lawyer for doing his job on behalf of a client that Leftblogistan thinks is unsavory with Holder and Chiquita? It was stupid then, and it’s still stupid.
And the right incentive structure.
He’s at least in his mid-60s, and has been a partner at S&C since 1977. His net worth is almost certainly deep into eight figures. DepSecTreas was, one can surmise with some confidence, going to be his last job before riding off into the sunset, a chance to give back something to the system that has treated him exceedingly well. As noted above, no one on earth knows the regulation of financial institutions better than he does. How is it anything but stupid to exclude people like this from public service?
/stares at the United States Senate.
BTW- I have no problem with Cohen keeping his day job. I just don’t want him writing the regulations he will later be attempting to skirt.