What’s your main criteria for hiring? Do you want someone with deep expertise in their area or someone who’s first priority will be loyalty to you? Maybe you’ll catch a lucky break and one of your friends who is already loyal to you, will also have the expertise you need. But that's not likely, so you probably have to compromise.
If you hire the guy who is really only loyal, everyone sees that. It says you’re afraid of hearing contradictory opinions. It says that you care more about defending your political flanks than you do about achieving a goal. It says that you want the “realities” of the position to be subordinated to the politics.
Anyone who’s worked in big banks has seen this.
My boss at JPMorgan on the commodities desk was a pure “results” guy and cared about politics not at all. My other boss on the convertibles desk cared about nothing but politics and to him, results didn’t matter at all. The first guy was a pleasure to work for and I still speak of him with respect. I even kept in touch with him for years afterward, until he relocated to the Isle of Man. I only left his group when an opportunity presented itself to me that it didn't look like he'd be able to match. I discussed it with him, and he wished me well in my new role.
The second guy was arguably the worst boss I’ve ever had, and one of the most despicable human beings as well. He used to call the Indian guy on our team “the little brown fellow” and was so universally disliked, that every quant on the trading desk who worked for him quit within 2 weeks of each other, rather than be forced to work for him any longer. Being likable isn't the most important thing in business. But if you're so universally despised that your entire team quits en masse, it does make it a little tough to get things done.
Now Obama has decided to replace Tim (little Timmah) Geithner as Treasury secretary. So who did he pick? Did he go out and find a guy with a deep and abiding understanding of economics, financial markets and monetary policy? Someone from the private sector who may not even agree with his politics but wants the same thing he does for America? No. Instead he hired his buddy from the office down the hall.
That fact, and the fact that he’s hiring someone who is completely unqualified for arguably the most important position in his cabinet, will tell you all you need to know about Barak Obama.
Jack Lew is being hired to cover tracks. Jack Lew is being hired to guard the flanks, and to make sure that politics always trumps the realities of finance in the Treasury department. He’s just about the worst kind of person Obama could have picked for this particular job. And it's the worst job that he could choose to give to a person worried only about politics, like Jack Lew.
America’s slow motion suicide attempt continues.