Advice for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: Never let 'em see you sweat.
Especially when you're getting grilled on Capitol Hill. With the AIG bonus debacle still fresh, members of Congress are sure to milk every minute of their allotted time to get a good soundbite for their local news. Depending on how cynical you are, Geithner either faces tough questioning to get to the bottom of the mistakes that led to the AIG bonus payments, or Geithner is simply a player in Congress's political theater. (Geithner knows the drill: he has testified seven times already in this young administration.)
There will no doubt be preening and screaming from some about who knew what and when about those now infamous bonuses.
A bigger story here, though, is what Geithner plans to ask Congress. The Treasury Department wants broad new power to prevent another AIG debacle from ever happening again. Geithner is expected to ask Congress for so-called resolution authority, to step in when an insurance company, hedge fund or other non-bank finance firm could take down the global economy.
Remember, a decade of excessive risk-taking and too little supervision are at the root of this mess.
What kind of powers?
Geithner wants to be able to take over failing firms, to scrutinize their risky derivatives portfolios, and renegotiate executive pay. In short, he wants the powers to prevent this mess from every happening again.
But Congress may be more interested in flogging AIG mistakes, than fixing the problem for the future. Almost every day, someone new calls for Geithner's resignation. (Most recently Connie Mack, R-FL.) At any rate, Geithner has the trust of the President and has this job. The President has said so, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it again this morning on American Morning.
"I think what Geithner has had to do in nine weeks (is more than) most people have to deal with in nine months or nine years," Gibbs said.