Obama: I won't let Treasury Secretary quit his job

President seeks to end criticism of aide at centre of row over Wall Street bonuses

Barack Obama tried to silence critics of Timothy Geithner last night, issuing yet another public endorsement of his Treasury Secretary as the pair put the finishing touches to their latest plan to dig the US economy out of recession.

The President used an interview on the current affairs programme 60 Minutes to insist that even if Mr Geithner were to tender his resignation, his answer would be: "Sorry buddy, you've still got the job."

The two men spent yesterday at Camp David, nailing the details of the banking bailout they are set to unveil today. The plan is to earmark $100bn to help move toxic assets off the books of endangered ledners and, in doing so, unfreeze the credit markets.

"It's going to take a little bit more time than we would like to make sure we get this plan just right," Mr Obama said. "Of course, then we'd still be subject to criticism. What's taken so long? You've been in office a whole 40 days and you haven't solved the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression."

Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate banking committee, said Mr Obama's show of support did not make him feel "especially good" about the Treasury or the man at its helm. "My confidence is waning every day," Mr Shelby told Fox News. "If he keeps going down this road, I think he won't last long. He'll have to have at least a 180-degree turnaround, I believe, to be a successful Treasury Secretary."

Mr Geithner's credibility was dented from the day he started the job after 34 senators voted against his confirmation following the revelation that he had underpaid his taxes. Now, as the financial crisis delivers one sucker punch after another, the Treasury Secretary's name rarely appears in print without the adjective "embattled".

In one widely quoted quip, the HBO talk-show host Bill Maher declared: "If President Obama really wants to be transparent and level with the American people, he must replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner with an actual deer caught in headlights."

Mr Geithner, though widely considered to be a brilliant financial strategist and policy adviser, has struggled to strike a chord with the public. During last week's furore over the insurance giant AIG using taxpayers' money to pay exorbitant bonuses to executives, he was repeatedly accused of seeming aloof. The White House will be keen to avoid the kind of stock market dive that greeted Mr Geithner's original discussion of the bailout plan last month. The Dow Jones index plunged by 380 points on 10 February, with investors disappointed with the lack of specifics.

Christina Romer, the head of Mr Obama's White House council of economic advisers, toured television studios at the weekend to trumpet the scheme. The government is expected to offer about $100bn of low-interest loans to private investors who agree to buy up as much as $1 trillion of toxic assets from vulnerable banks. "We absolutely think this will do the job for the American economy," Ms Romer said, adding that the administration was "incredibly confident" that the economy would "bottom out this year and actually be growing again by the end of the year".

But it is set to be another difficult week for Mr Obama's team. The fury over AIG's bonuses continues to rage, stoked by revelations at the weekend that the insurer paid out far more than was first thought. When the amount in question was $165m, the wave of public anger was immense, but now the bonus mountain has hit $218m, almost a third more than expected. Mr Geithner is due to testify about AIG on Tuesday to a Congress keen to know exactly when he and the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, knew what. While there have been a handful of direct calls – including from a Republican Representative from Florida, Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV (Connie Mack) – for the Treasury Secretary to fall on his sword, few analysts expect him to leave, particularly given the lack of obvious alternatives.

The President will do his bit to try to restore public confidence in his administration's handling of the economic crisis, with a prime-time press conference tomorrow night. But once-loyal commentators are beginning to subject Mr Obama's economic policy to close scrutiny.

An editorial in yesterday's Washington Post said: "Until now he has offered a host of new spending – on healthcare, middle-class tax cuts, education and alternative energy – without calling for much sacrifice from anyone except the top 5 per cent of the income scale."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue