Lew to fight tax battles for Obama
Jacob Lew's appointment to White House Chief of Staff suggests the US President expects him to fight the Republicans who oppose tax increases.PT0M0S 620 349
WASHINGTON: Barack Obama's latest reported cabinet nomination - Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary - shows the President is in no mood to compromise with Congressional Republicans.
Mr Lew, a Washington insider and former Wall Street chief operating officer, once maintained good relations among Republicans. That ended when he led the President's bruising budget negotiations in 2011.
Jack Lew said no 999,000 times out of a million … It was unbelievable.
When the Republicans reopened negotiations after a collapse they did so with a message to the President, according to Bob Woodward's book, The Price of Politics. ''Please don't send Jack Lew. The budget director talked too much, was uncompromising, and Boehner's staff did not believe he could get to yes.''
US President Barack Obama, right, with White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. Photo: AFP
In a later interview with Woodward. the Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, said: ''Jack Lew said no 999,000 times out of a million … It was unbelievable. At one point I told the President, keep him out of here. I don't need somebody who just knows how to say no.''
As the Treasury secretary replacing Mr Geithner, it will be Mr Lew's first job to lead America's fragile economy to a true and stable recovery while it is buffeted by the continuing brinksmanship in Washington related to the US debt limit and pending automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.
But to secure Mr Obama's legacy he will also need to find a way to cut the deficit while preserving the Democratic Party's holy trinity: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
There are many who view this as a Herculean task. Many others consider it impossible.
Jack (Jacob) Lew is the son of a middle-class Jewish family from Queens, and still lives in Brooklyn. Though he could not be further from the close Obama Chicago network, he became such a trusted adviser over the President's first term that when it was rumoured he might be offered the Treasury post, The National Journal speculated the only black mark against him could be that Mr Obama would consider him too valuable to release.
After graduating from New York City public schools Lew studied law at Harvard and at Georgetown University in Washington, before becoming a senior adviser to the former House speaker Tip O'Neill and later to Bill Clinton.
After serving with the Clinton administration Lew moved into academia and was for a time chief operating officer of Citigroup's propriety trading group, overseeing a hedge fund that, according to Mother Jones magazine, bet on the collapse of the housing market.
He was appointed the President's budget director in 2010, and then chief of staff last year.
The President's nominations for cabinet positions are being closely read as indicators of his policy and political objectives for the coming term.
It was noted he staunchly defended the UN ambassador Susan Rice, who was on his shortlist for the role of secretary of state after she was attacked for her response to the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, only to overlook her for Senator John Kerry - an appointment seen as politically easier.
After that the White House let it be known that the President had opted for the former Republican senator Chuck Hagel to head Defence - a nomination he will have to fight to get past Republicans in the Senate who fear that he will not be hawkish enough over Iran and will assist in cutting a Pentagon budget that he has described in the past as bloated.