Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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A change at Treasury

Three years ago Toledo native John Snow was just what the Bush Administration ordered to replace industrialist Paul O'Neill as U.S. Treasury Secretary.

But that was then and this is now. The second industrialist to head the department for the administration is being replaced by a Wall Street wonder who is just what Karl Rove ordered for political repairs.

The continued shake-up of top-ranking administration officials is not without purpose during this key election year.

While Mr. Snow, former chairman and chief executive of rail giant CSX Corp., was a reliable cheerleader for the Bush White House, the administration needs more than loyalty now. It needs to be rescued from plummeting approval ratings. It needs the clout of a respected Wall Street player to boost public perception of its economic performance.

The administration tapped Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Henry Paulson to succeed Mr. Snow. He is considered a more compelling figure than the outgoing Cabinet secretary.

Yet the genial Mr. Snow will be remembered as the consummate salesman for the administration. He could be counted on not to make waves like the first Treasury chief.

He didn't question the size of the White House-backed tax cuts or express concern about increasing the deficit, as Paul O'Neill did. Mr. O'Neill's bluntness precipitated his ouster in December, 2002, even though his observations were astute.

When Mr. Snow, a 1962 graduate of the University of Toledo, took over at Treasury in early 2003, he saw his role less as chief spokesman for fiscal integrity and more as chief pitchman for the President's policies.

He remained true to his mission of following the White House lead. Even in his departing remarks Secretary Snow insisted that the administration's "economic policies have put the American economy on a strong upward path."

But Republicans have long complained that Mr. Snow failed to convince Americans of that fact. Speculation about his impending departure from the administration began as far back as 2004.

The White House finally declared tepid support for the Treasury secretary but not before potential replacements for his job were reportedly being vetted by the administration.

Still, Mr. Snow soldiered on, getting nowhere with the administration's Social Security proposals but boasting of some success with China moving toward a more flexible currency policy.

The high-powered Mr. Paulson is expected to take an even more aggressive approach to the Chinese as well as the financial markets in the remaining days of the Bush Administration.

But like his predecessor, he may find there is only so much a loyal Republican and major Bush contributor can do except support the White House.

Aside from ceaselessly talking up the economy under Republican leadership, what more can a team player do than boost the flagging political fortunes of his boss?

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