Updated at 1:55 pm EDT
Jack Lew’s signature signature is throwing some people for a loop.
Reviews of the Hancock of the man likely to become the next secretary of the U.S. Treasury range from “awful” to ”awesome.”
Deconstructing it, Lew’s signature resembles more the testing of a pen to see if contains enough ink for the job, or a coiled string awaiting unraveling, than the impressive imprimatur one might expect on the nation’s currency.
The outgoing treasury secretary — the nation’s 75th — had to change his signature to adopt to the duty of signing those dollar bills. The incoming secretary, to be nominated today in a White House ceremony, may have to adapt as well.
Then again, why change? Lew, who serves as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and has served as director of the Office of Management and Budget twice (under Obama and Bill Clinton), has not only a distinguished career in public service. He also has a distinguishing signature.
The Washington Post has summoned a handwriting analyst to say that “the roundness of the characters in Lew’s impossible-to-read John Hancock indicates that he just might be the cuddly sort.” Kathi McKnight, professional graphologist, says such strokes are common among those with a “softer” approach to problem-solving.
The signers of the Constitution, by contrast, used strong, angular lettering, McKnight told the Post — not that Lew is alone in his circular style. “Princess Di had very loopy writing,” she says.
The fact that Lew’s signature is illegible may also mean that he wants to keep his true identity unknown, she suggests. “People with illegible signatures … like to keep some things private,” she says.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “had a similarly illegible signature before being appointed,” the Post also reports. “He, however, changed it prior to placing his John Hancock on all American currency minted under his watch.”
In an interview with Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal, Geithner said: “I had to write something where people could read my name.”
Today, standing alongside Geithner as Obama announced Lew’s nomination for Treasury, Lew told Geithner: “I thought I knew you pretty well, but it was only yesterday that I discovered we both share a common challenge with penmanship.”
And the president added this: “I had never noticed Jack’s signature, and when this was highlighted yesterday in the press I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.” Following through with the joke, Obama said: “Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency.”
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell says Lew’s “might be the world’s worst signature.”
The Daily Caller and The Week have called it “horrible” and “awful.”
Columnist Ezra Klein, who contributes to Bloomberg View, suggests that Lew’s signature “would turn American currency into the best money ever.”
His signature isn’t really loopy either. It is, for sure, looping.
And for now, it has thrown a lot of people for one.