Clinton and Obama, despite what many forecast, had developed a “humorous rapport,” in the words of one of the administration officials. If she were chosen for Treasury secretary, it would reinforce that the relationship had not only healed but thrived. And after she contributed to many diplomatic and military successes, Clinton would be taking over the most crucial and fraught task of Obama’s presidency: rescuing the economy.
Despite their rivalry on the campaign trail in 2008, the president welcomed Clinton into his administration, acknowledging that her experience would be crucial to his goals.
But some within the administration remembered the difficulties once Clinton came on board. Obama had guaranteed Clinton that she could pick her own team at State when he first negotiated with her in December 2008. And while the principals grew fond of each other, it took more time for their loyalists to follow suit, several administration officials said. Animosity lingered as the White House squared off with the State Department over many nominees.
“To describe it like an Israeli-Palestinian tension was pretty close,” the official said.
That drama has thoroughly subsided. Yet as the White House deliberated the job change for Clinton, a concern arose, according to one of the administration officials. Some of her aides would certainly follow her from Foggy Bottom to the building next to the White House. And “staffing up all over again” could revive the discord.
That problem, among others, scuttled Geithner’s proposed successor. There was another major obstacle: Obama didn’t want him to go. Geithner agreed to stay put, and, to help on the home front, the president talked in person to Geithner’s wife. Obama let Carole Geithner, a social worker and novelist, know that as much as she wanted her husband home for their son’s senior year, the president needed Geithner in Washington.
Shortly after the idea lost currency, Geithner appeared onstage in Chicago for a dialogue with Bill Clinton. At the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative America, Clinton asked Geithner, “What are your career plans?”
“I live for this work. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I believe in it,” the Treasury secretary said. Looking wistful, Geithner in a low tone described the distance from his family he was about to endure and the long commute ahead. “And I’m going to be doing this for the foreseeable future.”
“Good for you,” Clinton said. “That’s good for America!”