Should We Be Critical of the Geithner About-Face?

A lot of early morning chatter on the internets is focusing on this WaPo story, which suggests that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s rollout of the Wall Street bailout version 2.0 was “hobbled” by a last minute change of plans. “According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner
had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had
spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky
for taxpayers,” the article says. “They needed an alternative and found it in a
previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public
loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of

This news isn’t being received kindly. TPM‘s top headline: “How Geithner’s Bailout Rollout Flopped.” Mike Tomasky echoes the Post and says that Geithner’s effort was “hobbled.” Conservative blog Red State is calling the situation a “picture of dysfunction.”

And yet, why? I agree that Geithner should have ignored his arbitrary deadline in order to put more meat on the bones of his plan. I agree that it is ridiculous that the administration gave Geithner no staff to work with. But shouldn’t we applaud the fact that Geithner did not stubbornly stick to a plan that he could see was not working, despite the fact that he had spent weeks working on it? Wasn’t it characteristic of the Bush Administration to never admit mistakes and to obstinately stick with policies that were obvious failures? Doesn’t that explain years 2003-2006 of the Iraq War and Donald Rumsfeld’s tenure as Secretary of Defense?

Geithner saw that he had a flawed plan. Instead of saying, “It’s too late to change course” or “We put too much work in to switch things now,” he scrapped what he had and went with something better. I say we give him credit for that.