It's uncommon for a pundit to go all-out to defend an unpopular
government bureaucrat. It's even more uncommon when that bureaucrat is
a Democrat and the pundit in question is conservative. The New York
Times's David Brooks took a stand today to defend Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner from the official's many conservative and liberal detractors.
That criticism has spread from the political commentators to the
Congress, where a small but bipartisan contingent is calling for his
resignation. But Brooks argues that a longer view vindicates Geithner:
The criticism of his plan to stabilize the financial system came from all directions. House Republicans called it radical. Many liberal economists thought the plan was the product of hapless, zombie thinking and argued that only full bank nationalization would end the crisis. The Wall Street Journal asked 49 economists to grade Geithner. They gave him an F.
Well, the evidence of the past eight months suggests that Geithner was mostly right and his critics were mostly wrong. The financial sector is in much better shape than it was then. TARP money is being repaid, and the debate now is what to do with the billions that were never needed. It now seems clear that nationalization would have been an unnecessary mistake — potentially expensive and dangerously disruptive. The course of events has vindicated the administration’s handling of its first big challenge.
With unemployment above 10% and TARP's near-trillion-dollar price
tag still weighing on everyone's minds, Geithner is a popular target. Brooks had the courage to defend Geithner and his policies, despite the inevitable populist backlash. With Geithner-bashing such an easy and popular sport of the moment, Brooks threw his weight against the tide.