Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, to promote his new memoir Stress Test, yet host Bob Schieffer barely touched on the most controversial aspect, that the Obama Administration had directed him to spin negative aspects of Obama’s policies.
Schieffer briefly asked his guest: “Did the administration ever try to get you to put a more positive spin on things than you thought the situation deserved?" After Geithner said he “never had that experience,” the CBS host quickly moved on to an unrelated topic without challenging his contradictory claim.
According to Geithner’s book Stress Test:
I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn’t contribute to the deficit. It wasn’t a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a ‘dog whistle’ to the left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.
Despite the former Treasury Secretary’s admission that the White House instructed him to spin certain issues, during his appearance on Face the Nation, he remarked: “I never felt I was in the position where they put us, where they put a political constraint on what we were doing. And definitely never tried to make us more optimistic than we should have been.”
Rather than push back against Geithner’s own contradiction, Schieffer immediately changed the subject and asked his guest “What advice do you have to the administration right now on this problem with this Veterans Administration where you seem to have an intractable bureaucracy?"
See relevant transcript below.
CBS's Face The Nation
May 18, 2014
BOB SCHIEFFER: Did you at any time when you were Treasury Secretary, did the administration ever try to get you to put a more positive spin on things than you thought the situation deserved?
TIMOTHY GEITHNER: You know, I never had that experience. I had a amazingly good experience with this president and this White House in the sense that my overwhelming experience was, this is a man very good at making decisions, unpopular decisions after looking at all the evidence who was willing at that time to put policy ahead of politics in way that was very important for the country. Because again, it would have been easy for him to sort of sit back and say, I'm going to let it burn itself out. It's something I inherited. I'm not responsible for it. And that would have been devastating for the country. So my experience was, he was excellent in crisis. Good at making decisions. Very tough on the rest of us, very tough on all of us to make sure we were examining all the options. And I never felt I was in the position where they put us, where they put a political constraint on what we were doing. And definitely never tried to make us more optimistic than we should have been.
SCHIEFFER: You are a now former, what advice do you have to the administration right now on this problem with this Veterans Administration where you seem to have an intractable bureaucracy? Former secretary of defense, bob Gates, told me last week, of all the bureaucracies the one that was even harder to deal with than his own was the veterans Administration. It seems to me, you heard the commander of the V.A. say this morning, they just need to change of culture over there.
— Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Jeffrey Meyer on Twitter.