Richter Scale

President Paulson

Would the U.S. Treasury Secretary make a good president?

Takeaways


  • Looking beyond U.S. borders, the world is actually full of former finance ministers turned heads of government.
  • His persona assumes the qualities of Abe Lincoln, a leader ready to take on the civil war of our time, the financial self-destruction of the United States.
  • If McCain managed to get Paulson to continue serving as a Treasury Secretary in a future McCain Administration, that may be the royal flush that would put him into the White House.
  • Pairing Al Gore and Warren Buffett in his own persona makes him (almost) irresistible.
  • He can stylize himself as the Eisenhower for our times — a war-tested leader with the right kind of experience for our times.

Move over, Obama. You are tall and handsome and all that, but too young. For all your brilliance, there is an experience issue. Come back in eight years — and you’ll be a shoo-in.

And drop out, McCain. You are neither tall nor handsome, but definitely have experience — except that, by your own admission, it is not the kind we need.

In fact, while Obama’s time may be in ten years, yours was roughly ten years ago, when George W. Bush’s election machine destroyed you.

So what’s a hard-working, increasingly desperate American to do? How about starting a write-in movement for President Hank Paulson?

Hank who? Hank, the finance guy, the man who runs the U.S. Treasury Department and who increasingly finds himself at the center of a global crisis — and hence the evening news.

At six foot five inches (1.9 meters), Hank is tall. As a former college football player, Hank is also tough — and can relate credibly to blue collar guys’ favorite pastime.

Better yet, he ran Goldman Sachs — the world’s most successful investment bank — for seven years, from 1999 to 2006, which gives him the right experience for these troubled times.

That he is also an ardent, yet no pie-in-the-sky environmentalist only adds to his political bona fides. And that he maintained a rather modest lifestyle given his self-earned (move over, McCain) wealth makes him that much more appealing.

Pairing Al Gore and Warren Buffett in his own persona makes him (almost) irresistible.

In addition, he can stylize himself as the Eisenhower for our times — a war-tested leader with the right kind of experience for our times (that is, not one of the military kind, which is so yesteryear).

When he appears on television, his personality fills the screen — and he towers over all others.

Whether they are the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate Majority Leader, the Fed Chairman or anybody else, they all look like mere bystanders. They literally recede into the background as they admiringly look up to their leader.

And when he speaks in a slow, pensive, deliberate manner, he exudes confidence — and his persona all of a sudden assumes the qualities of Abe Lincoln, a leader ready to take on the civil war of our time, the financial self-destruction of the United States.

True enough, there are those clever tongues wagging about how immensely successful Mr. Paulson has been to date.

When he, as the latest top-level emissary of Goldman Sachs, came to Washington, there were still five major U.S. investment banks. Now, there is none.

Not bad for a few years’ worth of “restructuring” work.

Looking beyond U.S. borders, the world is actually full of former finance ministers turned heads of government, which should bode well for Paulson.

True, the most recent major examples, Gordon Brown of Britain and Paul Martin of Canada — both of whom were quite fabulous finance ministers, but hapless prime ministers — make the underlying proposition look dubious.

There are certainly other, more inspiring examples. One of the most prominent is Germany’s Helmut Schmidt, who was both a very successful finance minister and subsequent chancellor in the 1970s.

It is really a shame that, given current circumstances, the United States cannot realistically avail itself of this option. In parliamentary systems, the ruling party could just toss out its own head of government — and can swap him or her for the better man or woman.

In the U.S. system — since the financial crisis did not jell in time for Paulson to be drafted by either party, as Eisenhower was, and since the U.S political system is completely slated against independents to be elected to office — that realistically only leaves the option to retain him in the post as Treasury Secretary.

For Obama, should he get elected, that would be a very straightforward way to underscore his promised bipartisan approach right from the get-go (while perhaps also seeking to retain the services of Bob Gates as a very able Defense Secretary).

McCain, however, is the one with the kill option. If he managed to get Paulson to commit to continue serving as a Treasury Secretary in a future McCain Administration, that may come to be seen as the royal flush that would put him into the White House.

Obama’s hands, meanwhile, are completely tied. If he were even to hint at wanting to keep Paulson, the political pressure would rise on the latter as a good Republican to offer doing the same for McCain — thereby erasing McCain’s mega-deficit on economic competence.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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