ABC Losing Faith in 'Wonky' Tim Geithner?

Perhaps signaling media impatience with the Obama administration's economic policy, Tuesday's "Good Morning America" featured a challenging look at the performance of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who the show had previously described as "wonky." Reporter Jake Tapper observed that "to some, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's stock has dropped."

Citing the various economic problems that have seemed only to grow in the last few months, Tapper highlighted how Geithner has been criticized for his "thin speech on how to fix the banking crisis and for not winning the confidence of the sinking markets."

In contrast, on November 25, the day after he was announced, GMA correspondent Claire Shipman filed a fawning report on both the new nominee and the man who picked him. She enthused that "insiders say the President-elect and his pick for the top economic spot could have been separated at birth." Citing the Economist, Shipman gushed that both Geithner and Obama "have a hipster, wonky cool about them."

Shipman continued to pile on the compliments, noting that the Treasury nominee "is also known to surf and skateboard," that he's "humble, even shy." So, if things continue to go poorly in the economy, it will be interesting to see if media criticism is limited to Geithner or broadened to include the President. Certainly, viewers will be less likely to see reports about how Obama and Geithner are "separated at birth."

A transcript of the March 10 segment, which aired at 7:02am, follows:

7am tease

DIANE SAWYER: This morning, the nation's top money man under fire, even inside his own party. What does the secretary of Treasury need to do to clarify and build confidence?

7:02

SAWYER: But, let's get started right back here in New York, in this country, as we begin with the growing criticism of the new Treasury secretary. Tim Geithner was on Capitol Hill Monday night to address the House Democratic caucus. And at least one prominent Democrat told ABC News, the Treasury chief may have, quote, "made a mistake" by not providing enough details in his plans to stabilize the financial system. ABC's senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper is in Washington with more. Jake?

ABC GRAPHIC: In the Hot Seat: Treasury Chief Faces Tough Questions

JAKE TAPPER: Good morning, Diane. Well, that's right. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner facing some criticisms about his economic leadership, or lack thereof. Facing some tough questions from House lawmakers last night, he told them, according to one attendee, quote, "We're going more in weeks than other countries do in years." An attendee described the briefing as, quote, "A pep talk to say we're on the right course." Of course, implicit in that is Geithner making the argument that he's the right man for the job

REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER (D-MD, majority leader): Secretary Geithner indicated that he believes that what we are doing is working.

TAPPER: But to some, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's stock has dropped.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: I think the secretary has to lead. And I think he has to lead now, as soon as possible.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I think the message is muddled. And I don't think there's certainty. And I don't think there's specifics.

TAPPER: Even "Saturday Night Live" has decided he's worth mocking.

[SNL clip]

"TIM GEITHNER": This $420 billion will be placed in a special fund. And will go to the first individual who comes up with a workable plan to solve the banking crisis.

TAPPER: It seems like a long time last November, when Geithner's name was leaked as Treasury secretary nominee and the market rallied. He's since been panned for staff vacancies at the Treasury department, his thin speech on how to fix the banking crisis and for not winning the confidence of the sinking markets.

SEAN EGAN (Egan-Jones Rating Company): The image that comes across is that he's still getting his feet wet. He doesn't have a complete understanding of what the problems are or how to address it.

TAPPER: Even supporters like billionaire Warren Buffett, are now voicing concern over the economic message coming from the government.

WARREN BUFFETT: We've have got muddled messages. The American public does not know- they feel they don't know what's going on. And the reaction to that is to absolutely pull back.

TAPPER: But Geithner's supporters argue that in only five weeks on the job, he's accomplished a great deal: The financial stability plan. The housing plan. The auto task force. Restructuring plans with Citigroup and AIG and new limits on executive compensation.

SCOTT TALBOTT (Financial Services Roundtable): No one else is positioned as he is right now, to help lead the country.

TAPPER: Supporters say Geithner's calm demeanor is exactly what's needed right now.

TALBOTT: He has got a slow, steady hand. He's not making knee-jerk reactions and overreacting.

TAPPER: Diane, a progress report. A couple weeks ago, we told you about all those vacancies at the Treasury Department. Well, on Sunday, the Obama administration announced three nominees for assistant secretary positions. And we expect him to announce a nominee for deputy secretary this week. So, Tim Geithner will get some of the help he so sorely needs. Diane?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org