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Shiela Bair Rejected by Vogue Over Her Looks, but Geithner Gets the Nod

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Team Obama’s answer to all negative feedback from the real world is to treat it as a communication/PR problem. Repackage the product, put the “new, improved” message out on all available frequencies, and move on to the next “public is a chump” maneuver.

As we noted yesterday, the brand mavens have been assigned to Timothy Geithner, with the apparent goal of making him seem like a nice guy, not an easy task, given the Treasury Secretary’s famed brusqueness, his cerebral orientation, and his often annoyed stance when before Congress (although he can be personable in smaller settings). But apparently, since the public knows little about him (the Wall Street found that 54% had either never heard of Geithner or were unsure of their views), this means he is a tabula rasa as far as the great unwashed public is concerned. So if they can be made to like Timmy, by extension, it will improve their perception of the Administration’s policies, right?

Earth to base: if people are unemployed, having trouble meeting their expenses, or have had to make significant lifestyle adjustments, making them like Geithner (even assuming such a thing is possible) is not going to create a halo that extends to the Administration’s policies. People are upset about overly bank-friendly policies, of which Geithner is unquestionably an architect. And his “the rescues were distasteful but necessary” line will play well only to the already converted.

And the charm offensive seems to be targeting women. I can just picture the market analysis: the segments where Geithner is least well known skewing heavily female, and women tend to be more liberal than men (having lower average lifetime earnings might have a role).

So we see Treasury kicking in for healthy eating, and Timmy doing a tour of a grocery store with one of America’s favorite female political figures, Michelle Obama. Women just love guys who do the shopping, right?

Today we learn that Geithner is scheduled to be interviewed by Vogue (well I assume an interview; even though I recall Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail commenting favorably upon the Treasury Secretary’s abs, I would not expect them to be on display). Now this seems more than a bit odd, given Vogue has allegedly been looking to interview women who were major players in the crisis, but nixed them over their looks. As Jenna Sauers reported in Jezebel:

Just a few weeks ago I happened to get into conversation with a junior editor at Vogue — which, for all its faults, is still one of the only American women’s magazines to actually include any long-form feature writing that goes much beyond Area Woman Brought Closer To Husband By Bad Disease. This editor told me that she was itching to cover the financial crisis. (Vogue has apparently noticed that there has been a financial crisis.) The only problem, said this editor, was that her magazine’s coverage would have to take the form of a profile, and because of Vogue’s female audience, the profile would have to be of a woman. What’s more, any appropriate profile candidate would need to be attractive. “I pitched Sheila Bair to the photo department,” said this editor, “and they said, ‘Are you kidding? We can’t shoot her.’”

Yves here. Now I can’t be certain Vogue does not have something in the works, but a Google search and a site search of Vogue.com failed to turn up any sign of Elizabeth Warren either. But Geithner is lanky enough to be a model, so he passes muster, and an early snippet of the Vogue piece (the article is not out yet) at Politico predictably plays up this appearance:

A lithe and athletic 48 years old, Geithner … has the kind of looks that can go either way: Half an inch one way he’s John F. Kennedy; half an inch the other he’s Lyle Lovett. In person, he’s friendly, relaxed, and prone to making jokes at his own expense — the first thing he tells me when we sit down is how much ‘shit’ he’s going to get from his friends for doing an interview with Vogue. … Geithner … is very smart, very angry, and more than a little relieved that the economy did not tank further than it has. Indeed, as bad as things look today, it could have been worse. A lot worse. ‘We were starting to have a classic bank run, people were starting to take their money out of banks, something that hadn’t happened since the Great Depression.’

Yves here. I suppose puff pieces to hide the true character of what passes for our leaders are a more civilized way to distract the public from the rot in the empire than killing gladiators, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

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34 comments

  1. tyaresun

    They picked Turbo Tim over Warren? Not only are Vogue readers clueless, the editors are clueless as well. Didn’t they do a Summers puff piece a while back?

  2. Mind the GAAP

    “As we noted yesterday,”

    Who does “we” encompass, other than Yves?

    “not an easy task, given the Treasury Secretary’s famed brusqueness, his cerebral orientation, and his often annoyed stance when before Congress”

    Cerebral??? What the hell has he done to suggest Cerebral???? Even Forest Gump would have derided the guy as an idiot.

  3. eric anderson

    I thought Timmy looked a little like Eraserhead.

    And what’s wrong with Bair? Granted, she’s no Cameron Diaz, but on the other hand, she’s not Golda Meir, either.

  4. Thomas Barton, JD

    This Vogueification of Tilted-head Timmy strikes me as just isolated Beltway infighting struggling to find expression in a New York media outlet.. ObamaWorld is focused on the vast meandering masses of Independents about 0.8 per cent of which will ever pick up the Vogue issue let alone read all about the inner workings of a bought and paid for NY Fed version of Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, Re-Redux 2010.

  5. chaitanya

    Iam sorry to say this bluntly, but you said (re: you pen name) the other day that catering to public perception is “being realistic”. Perhaps Vogue is trying to do the same.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you read the article I linked to in that thread. There is a BIG difference between recognizing well researched, well documented cognitive biases and using them to your advantage, versus using PR (and it looks like not very well thought out or researched PR, trust me, a lot of “marketing” is uninformed prejudice) to remedy policy failures. It’s like treating a gunshot wound with a band-aid.

      1. chaitanya

        I was not referring to the PR. Just that Vogue may be taking advantage of cognitive biases of its readers (Re: “Sheila Bair is rejected by Vogue over her looks”), which seems to be one of the main points of this post (besides the PR point).

        Anyway, this is not worth quibbling over. I love this blog, and greatly appreciate your service in educating folks on finance issues.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          First, when I was trolling looking for the Jezebel story, I saw a post in DealBreaker or Gawker showing a picture of Bair that was quite attractive, and they said, more or less, “She look good enough for Vogue, what is their problem?”

          She is a public servant, in DC, a town that is largely not into the New York heavy personal maintenance/fancy hair/fancy wardrobe routine. Criminey, they did Hillary Clinton as a cover story, wardrobed out, etc. This is just a bloody interview, not a fashion feature, which Hillary’s was.

          Get the woman a professional makeup job and lighting, she will look at least 100% better. Please, Julia Roberts looks like a horse when not all dolled up.

  6. koshem bos

    The use of “very smart” suffers from serious devaluation. It has been applied to both Obama and Geithner ad nauseum. Both are major disappointments and show little ability to assess alternatives and inability to negotiate reality successfully.

    My guess is that the term “very smart” with these two guys is a measure their decent respond to questions, which was badly missing with some of the Bush, included, gang.

    No wonder they believe in PR; they cannot come up with other options.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’ve seen Geithner field questions from critics. Trust me, he is very smart.

      Smart and cunning are two different things. In fact, highly educated people tend to underestimate the importance of cunning. And negotiating expertise is a very narrow skill. You get good at it only if you spend a significant proportion of your time negotiating. Most people have no reason to have it, but most people never get told they should have other people negotiate for them.

      1. Naive_person

        All that intelligence and he can’t navigate out of his ideological paper bag. As someone once said: “Education is not the same as intelligence, and intelligence is not the same as wisdom.” (Okay, I said that, but I’m sure similar sentiments have been said many times before.)

  7. alex

    Yves Smith: “I recall Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail commenting favorably upon the Treasury Secretary’s abs … I suppose puff pieces to hide the true character of what passes for our leaders are a more civilized way to distract the public from the rot in the empire than killing gladiators”

    There’s no conflict – with those great abs Turbo Timmy would look great in the arena (and lions appreciate lean meat).

  8. i on the ball patriot

    Distraction from the rot of the empire …

    If they really want to ‘re-brand’ him, and at the same time pump up brand recognition with the fickle public, they should call him ‘Timmy Tables’ and send him to a gambler’s rehabilitation camp for three months. Then have him do a simple blue curtain back drop televised apology to the scamerican public just like that of Tiger Woods, and have him say; “I’m sorry. I let you down. I gambled away your life’s savings.”

    Of course there is always the risk of negative press being featured on Google’s “Spotlight”, like this piece about Tiger just was …

    Tiger Woods Announces Return To Sex

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/tiger_woods_announces_return_to

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. velobabe

      patriot you phucking crack me up with your wit. did you see where the press asked the tibetan spiritual leader what he thought about tiger woods public comments about straying from his buddhist faith. the dalai lama said he did not know who woods was. his holiness cracks me up too.

      1. i on the ball patriot

        His holiness is a show stopper, no doubt!

        He did though, when filled in on Wood’s situation, give him advice on his woody … he told him; “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.”

        There is a picture of his holiness in this linked article demonstrating what angle Woods woody should be at when he is with other women, the advice he gave Tiger is at the bottom of the article …

        http://wtop.com/?nid=104&sid=1893592

        I think its just a very sly zen way of saying, ‘when the penis is ready the hooker appears’.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  9. LeeAnne

    Why does ‘very smart’ in the context of anyone in high office sound so lame; as lame as ‘we’re working hard’ [to spend your $700,000,000,000 down a black hole any way we gd please?]

    There’s something sickening about ‘very smart.’ Why should we care? Every little classroom in the world has ‘very smart’ kids.

    Geithner’s disrespect for Congress, disrespect for the public, and ultimately for no respect for himself is embarrassing and disheartening. Embarrassing that our country can’t do better than such twits in high places and disheartening that he has the power to gain for himself and his cronies at the expense of decent people who are dependent on decent government.

    Listen to Timmy’s daughter in the spirit of ‘the fruit doesn’t fall far from from the tree,’ in an interview: ‘Elise [Geithner] stays active with all night charity dance-a-thons, …according to The Stanford Daily. “The only time you can sit is when you are on the toilet,” she said, according to Mercury News.’

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Lee Ann, you make some good points.

      “The harmony of natural law…reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

      Albert Einstein
      The World As I See It

      Some food for thought on the dimensions of intelligence here …

      http://www.co-intelligence.org/I-6_CI_manifestations.html

      Timmy falls short on collaborative intelligence.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  10. Namazu

    Ever wondered about the names of Paul Krugman’s cats? Check the latest edition of the New Yorker. Info-tainment rules even the “highbrow” media landscape.

  11. Doc Holiday

    Re: “… how much ‘shit’ he’s going to get from his friends …”

    Imagine the shit his friends would give him, if he wasn’t involved in the collusion and conspiracy to protect them and give them taxpayer money!

  12. Ishmael

    If Geithner, Bernanke and Greenspan were really truly that smart we would not be in this situation. At best I would rate them as average intelligence with some special BSing gifts (exclude Bernanke from that — he is always wrong). Anyone with half a brain and knowledge of a little bit of history would see this coming. No, they are full of hubris and must believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny if they believed an economy built on an expanding credit bubble would inflate forever.

    The problem in this country is we do not have really smart people running it. A friend of mine was contacted by Pelosi and a few other senators during the whole TARP thing. His only comment to me is Nancy Pelosi is the dumbest person he has ever talked to. He had a few interesting comments about other Senators but seemed to like Kucinich (at least he tries). All of these people are just very gifted at lying with a straight face.

    1. Cindy

      The defensive tone is remarkable. After reading, I skipped over to the fashion pages which were more informative and less biased.

  13. Angryfutureexpat

    The Vogue profile is actually out, but it seems like it is not available online. The article has a few classics, but this is one of my favorites:

    “‘The things we had to do early to fix the financial system were really important, and we got them basically right. Nothing else was possible without them. The reality is that financial crises are unfair and cause huge damage to innocent victims, but it would have been more unfair not to act aggressively because it was unpopular.’

    Wall Street, for the most part, agrees with Geithner’s self-assessment.”

    Why wouldn’t they?

  14. Cynthia

    The folks at Vogue are too blind to see that Elizabeth Warren is a natural beauty. She just needs is a little makeover, that’s all. In fact, if she ever run for president, her fashion advisors should have no trouble dolling her up with a new dress and hairdo that’ll make men drool even more than they did over the Barracuda Babe. They should also have no trouble putting together a new wardrobe for her that’ll easily dethrone Michelle Obama as Washington’s top fashion queen.

    On second thought, focusing on fashion is somethings that royals are famous for doing. And the last thing our country needs right now is another presidential couple that conduct themselves like royals. Not only does this fly in the face of democracy, but it also sends a message to the world that America prides itself on having extreme inequities in terms of both wealth and power.

    And I don’t know about anyone else here, but whenever I see our President and First Lady enjoying themselves like rock stars in front of the camera, I’m reminded that they have no intention whatsoever of wanting to live the modest life as our public servants. I used to think that Obama don’t want to give up any of the ill-gotten, anti-American, unconstitutional presidential powers that Bush so ruthlessly accumulated over the years only because he wants to get away with being just as sleazy of a criminal as Bush was. But now I think it’s also because he wants the freedom to live the high life as a bloody royal.

    Look at it this way, if we as Americans wanted a royal as a president, we might just as well have voted for one while sitting comfortably in front of the TeeVee, instead of while standing tirelessly in long lines at the voting booth. And if we as Americans wanted a royal as a president, then our forefathers should have never fought and died for our independence from Great Britain. And if any of forefathers were still around today, believe me, they’d go absolutely ballistic just knowing that our Presidential Couple could easily pass for King and Queen of Great Britain!

  15. Ina Pickle

    Not pretty enough. Seriously? Sometimes, I really, really hate being a girl.

    I have no idea what Blair looks like. I do notice that Larry Summers’ looks haven’t been a hindrance to him in denting the universe and declaring it an improvement.

    On a side note, I feel less dirty for trolling around at Jezebel now. Apparently I’m in good company.

    1. craazyman

      that’s because if you put a wig on him he’d look just like John Law. It’s the trickster wave, doing it’s sine curve propagation through time, and making an inside joke.

  16. debbiepug

    I am embarrassed and humiliated for this man, my government, and my country. What will the administration have him do next-a Sears Catalog layout, or a Viagra commercial? When is this administration going to realize that I am looking for leadership, courage, competency, truth, vision, and most importantly, loyalty to the U.S. Taxpayer and the American People? I am not naïve enough to think that being one of the “beautiful people” is all that is needed to qualify for the position of United States Treasury Secretary. The problem is not “charm” or “abs”, the problem is that the People are very aware of his tax problems, his huge hand in the architecture of the destruction of the American Economy, and his capture by the financial industry. It is time for this Peacock to resign.

  17. PeonInChief

    I have been known to read Vogue, and aside from a major enthusiasm for the Miller sisters a few years ago, it’s well known that they never picture people they don’t consider attractive. It’s sometimes odd because they’ll review a novel or write about someone doing something important and not have a single picture of the subject.

    As for the Geithner piece, it’s a standard puff piece, but did enable him to repeat the lie that he’d just made an error on his taxes when he failed to turn over the tax payment that he’d received from the IMF. He didn’t make an error. He pocketed the money. And when he got caught doing so for one year’s payment, he paid that money. He didn’t turn over the payment for the second year until he got caught.

    Mostly though, I was more interested in the fashion, and just disappointed that I’m too old to wear the flowery, chiffon dresses for spring.

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