Summers ‘Thrill’ Topped ‘Torture’: Geithner Says With Smile

Timothy Geithner, U.S. treasury secretary, right, talks to Lawrence " Larry" Summers, outgoing director of the U.S. National Economic Council, before U.S. President Barack Obama signed an $858 billion bill extending for two years Bush-era tax cuts in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17, 2010.

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *

Timothy Geithner, U.S. treasury secretary, right, talks to Lawrence ” Larry” Summers, outgoing director of the U.S. National Economic Council, before U.S. President Barack Obama signed an $858 billion bill extending for two years Bush-era tax cuts in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17, 2010.

Timothy Geithner, the former Treasury secretary making the rounds with his new book, spoke today of the abyss the United States faced in the fall of 2008, the prospect of a panic-driven financial crisis prompted by a freezing of credit.

It was nothing short of another Great Depression that was averted by government intervention, Geithner said today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He credited the consensus forged by leaders of an outgoing Republican administration and the incoming Democratic White House with averting that financial collapse — both in the TARP bailouts and the economic stimulus that followed. It was, he said, a great moment of policy triumphing over politics in the U.S.

This much is not new in the messaging of the financial crisis of 2008-09.

What was more fun: Watching the author of “Stress Test” perform a delicate dance around a question about Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary and economic adviser to presidents whom Henry Kissinger once suggested should have a permanent office off the Oval Office, available to vet any big idea presented to a president.

Should Obama have named Summers chairman of the Federal Reserve?

Janet Yellen, Geithner replied, will make a great Fed chair.

Summers is a pretty demanding and challenging personality, Geithner noted that people may have heard. But, he said with a smile today, what matters is the “ratio between the thrill and the torture.”

“With Larry, the thrill was much greater than the torture.”

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