President Obama stood side by side in the East Room of the White House on Thursday with his outgoing Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and the man he was nominating to replace him, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew.
The men are ordinarily among the least emotive around the White House, yet for 16 minutes on Thursday, as Obama bid farewell to Geithner and formally nominated Lew, there was an unusual spark of emotion.
Obama began with a lengthy soliloquy on Geithner’s value to him and the country.When Geithner reluctantly joined him four years ago, the president said, the financial crisis was burning. But “thanks in large part to his steady hand,” he said, “our economy has been growing again for the past three years.”
On display were bittersweet feelings, embarrassment, jokes and three men who seemed moved by the moment.
“So when the history books are written,” Obama added, “Tim Geithner is going to go down as one of our finest secretaries of the Treasury.” Sustained applause led a blushing Geithner to tilt his head forward, and for a moment Obama and he locked eyes, smiling. “Don’t embarrass him,” the president told the assemblage of administration officials.