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Geithner Takes His Show To Europe

(AP)
After a few weeks of ceaseless hazing and calls for his resignation, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has emerged as a "keeper." He heads to the G20 summit in London after a bold week on Capitol Hill, where he introduced plans to buy up to $1 trillion in toxic assets and outlined the government's proposal to the rewire the crippled banking industry.

The reception to the Geithner's plans was mixed, but at least the stock market had an up week. As Geithner keeps repeating, the country's economic problems are unprecedented and complex, and require some risk on the part of the government and taxpayers.

"We're not going to get through this unless we [are] willing to take risk again," Geithner said during an appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "You know, the financials took too much risk. The great danger for us now is they're going to take too little risk, they're not going to take a chance on a viable business or a family that wants to put their kids through college."

"So we need to get them working with us in this context," he continued. "And of course, for them to take risk they're going to need to have more confidence about what the rules of the game are going forward, that there's clarity about conditions and they don't face the risk of great uncertainty about those conditions going forward."

Up until last week, Geithner had been a punching bag, taking the hits for the AIG bonuses and other transgressions, including a poor performance in his first major public appearance. After his February 11 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, where he outlined his plan to save the economy, the stock market dropped about 400 points, or 4.6 percent. When the AIG bonuses came into full view, Representative John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), told a conservative talk-radio host that Geithner is "on thin ice."

President Obama has stood behind his Treasury secretary and stated that he wouldn't even accept Geithner's resignation if offered. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Geithner looked as if he had been taking public speaking lessons from the president. In his 30-minute solo performance with Gregory, he managed to get in all the high notes from the Obama sound-byte book, and capped it off with some passion—as much a banker can summon--when he was asked about the criticism and calls for his resignation:

"David, when I came into this job I knew two things, he said. "One is I knew we were starting with a set of enormously complicated challenges and a deep sense of anger and frustration about the burden Americans were bearing because of a long period of excessive risk taking. And I knew we were going to face really tough choices. We were going to have to do things that are going to be deeply unpopular, hard to understand. We're not going to get it perfect everywhere. But this is a great privilege for me, a great honor to help this president do what it takes to help get this economy back on track. This job, it comes with a lot of heat by definition and there's nothing surprising in that. But we have a great moment of opportunity for this country and it is, again, a great privilege for me to be part of an effort to try to make sure we put in place a stronger economy, stronger financial system for the future."

That kind of performance gives Geithner a bit of runway and has quieted down some of his more political detractors, but that hasn't stopped Nobel Prize-winning economist and blogger Paul Krugman from dissing the Obama administration's economic plans. This week Geithner will focus on difficult task of convincing European governments that buying toxic assets is good business for everyone. As many economists, politicians, pundits and armchair quarterbacks note, it's not clear if Geithner's risks will reap rewards. If they do, he just might get his own Nobel Prize to stick in Krugman's face.

Daniel Farber is editor-in-chief of CBSNews.com.