What's the Matter with Lew?

So what'll it be: Is Jack Lew an anti-Semite? Did he say something cruel in 1985 about A Flock of Seagulls, displaying his bias against differently coiffed Britons? Is he a vicious anti-dentite? 

There has to be something. Today we learned that Lew, currently the White House chief of staff and formerly the director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated by President Obama to replace Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. So if recent history is a guide, in the next day or two Republicans will discover that though Lew may look like a bureaucrat's bureaucrat on the outside, within him lies a twisted heart beating with radical ideas. Particularly if he is revealed to support the extremist policy agenda of the Kenyan anti-colonial socialist in the White House. 

Lew's confirmation hearings will no doubt feature discussion of the debt ceiling, and President Obama's oft-stated unwillingness to negotiate over it (the administration's position is that it needs to be raised, full stop, lest we go through another crisis like the one in 2011 when the nation's credit was downgraded). But there could also be some entertaining banter about the $1 trillion platinum coin. In case you haven't heard, under a quirk of the law the administration could avert a debt-ceiling crisis by minting a platinum coin in whatever denomination it chose (like $1 trillion) and then depositing it with the Federal Reserve, whereupon Treasury would have those funds available to pay the government's bills. Is it a crazy idea? Sure. Will the administration do it? No, probably not. But just a couple of years ago, the idea of not raising the debt ceiling when it became necessary was something no sane person would have advocated. So you never know.

So They Say

“The Founding Fathers never envisioned executive orders being used to restrict our Constitutional rights. We live in a republic, not a dictatorship.”

Representative Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, reacting to Joe Biden's remark that the White House intends to use an executive order to reduce gun violence

Daily Meme: You Don't Know Jack

  • It's official. Tomorrow, President Obama will name Chief of Staff Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's replacement. 
  • Lew has a storied history of climbing the ol' executive branch ranks. After a stint as House Speaker Tip O'Neill's senior policy advisor and brief forays into law and think tanks, he joined the Clinton administration as a special assistant, and was promoted to OMB director by the end of Clinton's presidency.
  • He's repeated the act in the Obama administration, flitting from the State department to the OMB (again) to the White House, and now, finally, to the Treasury. Dude gets around.  
  • One would think that with such a career, Lew would be a fascinating person, but according to a New York Times profile from early December 2012, the most rebellious thing he ever did "was moving to Minnesota." He also eats a cheese sandwich for lunch, every single day. Are we sure OMB doesn't stand for Office of Major Boringness?
  • But there's more to Lew than meets the eye (and sandwich)! "Tall and thin, with Harry Potter-like glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, he looks like a typical Washington technocrat, an image that belies his talent for combat."
  • His unassuming nature and "remarkably low profile" mean that he'll likely sail through confirmation, John Cassidy thinks, especially since he's been through this whole ordeal before. 
  • The New York Times notes that "While Mr. Lew has much less experience than Mr. Geithner in international economics and financial markets," he has "far more expertise in fiscal policy and in dealing with Congress than Mr. Geithner did when he became secretary at the start of Mr. Obama’s term." 
  • The most important ramification of Lew's likely ascendancy to the top of the Treasury department? We may soon have something that looks like "Sally Brown's hair in Peanuts" on every dollar bill. I mean seriously, look at Jack Lew's signature. That isn't his name. That's a slinky doodle!
  • Or is it art? The Treasury secretary signature is in the eye of the beholder.
  • His trademark signage may never hit Treasury paper in the end. His forebear was forced to change his John Hancock.
  • Whatever his signature looks like in the end, he has tough competition from secretaries past for "best signature ever."

What We're Writing

  • David Kairys says we need to go beyond assault-weapon bans to stop gun violence.
  • Jamelle Bouie writes that the $1 trillion coin is the only way to counter the GOP's refusal to lift the debt ceiling.

What We're Reading

  • Obama's Labor secretary, Hilda Solis, is about to resign.
  • It turns out that the White House is responding to all those crazy petitions that it, perhaps unwisely, agreed to host.
  • Noam Scheiber explores how Joe Biden mucked up the fiscal-cliff negotiations.
  • Andy Kroll reports on a new national coalition of progressive groups.
  • Jonathan Chait spots a bit of logic behind Republicans' childish refusal to negotiate with Obama.
  • Governor Cuomo is pushing for the country's most restrictive ban on assault weapons in New York. 
  • The National Cathedral is set to start hosting same-sex weddings. 
  • Alex Pareene says there is a simple explanation for why Congress is so dumb: The members don't do their homework, and instead spend all their time raising money. 

Poll of the Day

In case the results of the 2012 election weren't clear enough, a new Gallup poll confirms that more of the country aligns with Democrats than Republicans. Gallup averaged its polls on party identification from 2012 and found that 47 percent identified themselves as Democrats, while 42 percent considered themselves Republicans. The two parties had been essentially even in Gallup's averages for 2010 and 2011.