Obama nominates Orthodox Jew for treasury secretary

Click photo to download. Caption: Jack Lew. Credit: White House.

(JNS.org) U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as the next U.S. treasury secretary on Thursday. Lew is an Orthodox Jew and one of Obama’s closest advisers. The Lew appointment comes on the heels of Obama’s selection of John Kerry as Secretary of State and the controversial Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. 

“As the son of a Polish immigrant, a man of deep and devout faith, Jack knows that every number on a page, every dollar we budget, every decision we make has to be an expression of who we wish to be as a nation, our values,” Obama said Thursday.

As treasury secretary, Lew will jump straight into the fire of a tough battle against Republicans in Congress over the deficit ceiling and extensive cuts to government spending—and he is already known for intense clashes with Republicans over such matters. According to Bob Woodward’s book, The Price of Politics, that, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner went as far to specifically request from Obama to ban Lew from attending talks with House Republicans at the Capitol.

“Jack Lew said ‘No’ 999,000 times out of a million,” House of Representatives Speaker Boehner told Bob Woodward in Woodward’s book, The Price of Politics, regarding Lew’s attitude during 2001 debt ceiling talks. “At one point I told the president, keep him out of here. I don’t need somebody who just knows how to say ‘No.’”

Obama’s choice of Lew is seen as a signal of the president’s determination to control record-breaking budget deficits. The 57-year-old Lew would bring private sector and international experience to the Treasury Department. He has held top jobs at Citigroup’s wealth management branch and at the State Department, where he oversaw international economic issues in his first job for Obama.

Assuming that Lew is confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the last of Obama’s original economic team of 2008.

Compared with Geithner, Lew “is more closely aligned with class-warrior image that Obama adopted during the election campaign,” according to The Atlantic magazine.

“A staunch liberal, he started his political career canvassing for anti-war hero Eugene McCarthy in 1968 (he was 12); his adviser at Carleton College was Paul Wellstone, later an iconic liberal senator; and one of his first jobs in Washington was working for Democratic lion and former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill,” The Atlantic wrote of Lew online.

Posted on January 10, 2013 .