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Senior officials don’t define administrations; presidents do, by making the strategic decisions that reshape events. For the latest confirmation of this age-old truth, we need look no farther than Jackie Calmes’s excellent article on Tim Geithner, the one economic advisor Obama “fought to keep.” Toward the end of her piece, she reports the following, which occurred on a conference call shortly after the 2008 election:
Mr. Obama spoke of the transformative domestic policies he had promised and now would pursue. Mr. Geithner, say people familiar with the exchange, cautioned that the crisis Mr. Obama had inherited was so severe that it would constrain him.
“Your legacy is going to be preventing the second Great Depression,” Mr. Geithner said. Vexed, Mr. Obama replied, “That’s not enough for me.”
The Treasury Department yesterday revised its loss estimate for the Government Motors bailout from $14.33 billion to $23.6 billion, thanks to the company’s sinking stock price. GM’s Sept. 30 closing price, on which the new estimate is based, was $20.18, about $13 less than its December IPO price and $35 less than what is needed for taxpayers to break even.