This Washington Job Really Matters The next President's most crucial appointment will be his Treasury Secretary. Match the candidates with their likely choices (answers below).
(FORTUNE Magazine) – All over cable TV, commentators are yapping with speculation about presidential running mates. Mostly they speculate about the same old names. But play that parlor game with a presidential appointment that really matters--say, the next Secretary of the Treasury--and the names that emerge offer intriguing insights into the candidates themselves.
Start with the assumption that President Al Gore would reappoint Larry Summers, Bill Clinton's third Treasury Secretary. Summers retains the magic dust he acquired under Robert Rubin, and in recent months he has won the confidence of Gore, who knows that his first task as President would be to send an unambiguous signal that he wants to keep the good times rolling.
If Gore fumbles the nomination and the Democrats manage to push Bill Bradley into the White House, Summers should pack. The Bradley Administration will want its own face at Treasury. It's all but certain that the face will be a familiar one on Wall Street, which is as big a part of the Bradley base as Madison Square Garden. "It's almost impossible for a Democratic President to veer away from the Street now that the Rubin experience is recognized as having been so successful," says former Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, a Bradley adviser--and no shill for investment bankers. "Democrats have a high burden of proof on economic matters, and the Street is going to want to be assured that the Administration is listening intently."
The smart money for Bradley's choice is on a relatively unknown financier named Donald C. Roth, the only three-sport athlete at Princeton during his years there and a member of seven Ivy League championship teams. Roth, a 17-year veteran of Merrill Lynch (where he was chairman and CEO of European operations), is also a former vice president and treasurer of the World Bank. He now serves as managing partner of Emerging Markets Partnership, which specializes in financing cellular networks, mass-transit systems, rail and shipping facilities, and wastewater treatment plants in developing countries. "Roth has great experience on the Street, in international business, in emerging markets--and most of all, he's got a close personal relationship with Bradley," says Mark Lackritz, president of the Securities Industry Association.
Roth, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard known for his ability to make the smart pass, was a member of the Princeton basketball team that catapulted Bradley to stardom. Roth is still remembered for his prodigious work ethic. "He was the kind of kid who took a 1,000-page history book on a basketball trip and read 900 pages by the time we got to Cornell," says Gary Walters, a onetime Kidder Peabody executive who was a point guard on the team. After Princeton, Roth earned degrees in international finance from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.
If long-shot Republican John McCain wins the White House, he could make an imaginative choice, even reaching into the Democratic Party. Right now the best bet for Treasury under McCain is Herbert M. Allison Jr., the recently retired president and COO of Merrill Lynch. Like McCain, Allison is a Navy veteran of Vietnam, and he has considerable experience abroad in Merrill's offices in Europe and the Middle East. He's also McCain's national finance chairman.
The leading candidate of George W. Bush is Lawrence B. Lindsey. He already has experience in a Bush White House, as special assistant for policy development to President George H.W. Bush. A former Fed governor and the senior staff economist for tax policy in President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, Lindsey has persuasive GOP bona fides. He is known for worrying aloud about the low national savings rate and says the chances of recession are greater than most other GOP economists admit.
As a Harvard professor, prolific op-ed contributor, and consultant, Lindsey has not exactly hidden his views under a rock, and he would be vetted with the zeal ordinarily reserved for a Supreme Court nominee. As a potential Treasury Secretary, he'd be questioned about his belief that economic decision-makers labor under great limitations. Look for his confirmation hearing to begin with questions about the first two sentences of his latest book, Economic Puppetmasters: Lessons from the Halls of Power. "So this is a global economy? It sure doesn't look like anyone's in charge."
DAVID SHRIBMAN is the Washington bureau chief of the Boston Globe and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political reporter.