Speaking of which, who will be President Trump’s treasury secretary, and does it matter? After this week’s ‘locker-room’ revelations, the Donald’s odds of winning have clearly lengthened. But he ain’t out of the race yet — and seasoned Republicans of my acquaintance have been agonising for months over the question of whether to accept jobs in his White House team, or indeed whether to push themselves forward in the hope of influencing it towards sanity.
Would that effort be worth the potential pain and embarrassment? It’s indicative of the lame-duck nature of Obama’s second term that Jack Lew, the Treasury incumbent and equivalent of our Chancellor, is all but invisible: I had to Google him to see what he looks like. The last man to make a real public impact in the role was arguably the hyperactive Hank Paulson during the 2008 financial crisis. Far more attention routinely focuses on the Federal Reserve chairman and her (or his) interest rate decisions.
But still it matters who has the president’s ear on economic issues, and the current Trump favourite is said to be his campaign financier Steve Mnuchin, an ex-Goldman Sachs partner and associate of George Soros. Also mentioned (by Trump himself, that is) have been the stockmarket player Carl Icahn, private equity titan Henry Kravis and former General Electric boss Jack Welch — ageing big-ego billionaires with as many opinions about America’s ills as the candidate himself. Maybe Hugh Hefner of Playboy would have made that list too, if he hadn’t just passed 90.
As for Hillary, insiders expect her to find a senior role for the grizzled left-wing laureate of economic doom, Joseph Stiglitz — but more excitingly, they hope she will appoint the first female Treasury chief. The hottest possibility is Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, who once served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, Larry Summers. Famed for lecturing other women on how to be as successful as she is, the self-promoting Sandberg has the disadvantage, in job application terms, that she would make Hillary look even older and dowdier. But let’s face it, whoever’s appointed to top jobs in Washington this winter, it will be a relief to most of us if it’s Hillary, faute de mieux, doing the appointing.
This article is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s Any Other Business, which first appeared in this week’s Spectator