Covering a new head at Treasury

by
Treasury check

After much speculation, President Obama plans to nominate Jacob Lew, currently his chief of staff, to head the Treasury Department. If confirmed, Lew will replace Timothy Geithner, who lead the department through the financial crisis and oversaw the bailouts of banks, car companies and insurers.

Let’s take a look at the coverage.

The New York Times chose to focus on the looming budget negotiations:

With his choice of Jacob J. Lew to be the secretary of TreasuryPresident Obama on Thursday will complete the transformation of his economic team from the big-name economists and financial firefighters hired four years ago to budget negotiators ready for the next fiscal fights in Congress.

If confirmed by the Senate, the 57-year-old Mr. Lew — Mr. Obama’s current chief of staff and former budget director — would become the president’s second Treasury secretary, succeeding Timothy F. Geithner, who was the last remaining principal from the original economic team that took office at the height of the global crisis in January 2009.

While the team is changing, so far it is made up entirely of men who have been part of the administration since its first months. Gene B. Sperling, like Mr. Lew a veteran of the Clinton administration, is expected to remain as director of the White House National Economic Council. Alan B. Krueger, a former Treasury economist, continues as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and Jeffrey D. Zients, a former business executive, as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

That composition gives Mr. Obama a high degree of comfort with his economic advisers, who have experience in the budget struggles that have occupied the administration since Republicans took control of the House two years ago. Those struggles will resume later this month. Yet the continuity also plays into criticism that the president is too insular and insufficiently open to outside voices and fresh eyes in the White House.

The Wall Street Journal story was similar but even harder hitting on the budget angle.

President Barack Obama plans to nominate Jacob Lew to be the 76th U.S. Treasury secretary, putting the White House’s chief budget expert in a top economic post as it enters a grueling year of fiscal battles with Congress.

Mr. Lew would break the mold of recent Treasury chiefs since he is better known for being a loyal lieutenant and budget wonk than a financial-market expert with broad business contacts.

Mr. Lew’s selection to succeed Timothy Geithner, which could be announced as early as Thursday, signals that Mr. Obama is prepared to aggressively pursue his economic-policy goals in his second term. Many Republicans oppose the White House’s insistence on raising more tax revenue as part of any future deficit-reduction deal, but Mr. Lew’s vocal support of the approach suggests the administration, while willing to negotiate, won’t give ground without a fight.

The Reuters story was much more straightforward and factual. Here’s its lead:

President Barack Obama will nominate White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be his next Treasury secretary, choosing a budget expert and close confidant to spearhead tough fiscal fights with Congress over the U.S. deficit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Lew would replace Timothy Geithner, the longest-serving member of Obama’s original economic team, who has said he would step down after one term.

A source familiar with the matter said Lew, who had been widely expected to be tapped for the role, will be nominated on Thursday.

The announcement would round out a slew of cabinet choices Obama has made in recent weeks that will help set the agenda for his second term.

And the award for the most creative lead goes to Bloomberg for using an anecdote to open their story.

President Barack Obama had just won re-election and his top advisers were in Chicago for the victory party. As they savored the moment, hugging one another and drinking champagne, Chief of Staff Jack Lew killed the buzz.

“Now, we get the fiscal cliff to deal with,” he said.

It was back to reality, Lew’s specialty. He had spent the year quarterbacking at the White House when the rest of the team was zeroed in on the campaign. Win or lose, Lew already had scheduled conference calls for the following morning and an evening meeting to prepare for the looming budget fight.

With his penchant for thinking several steps ahead, his organizational drive and his budget expertise, Lew, 57, has been Obama’s consummate aide. Now, he’s Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, according to people familiar with the process. Lew faces the prospect of becoming a leader at a critical juncture for the nation’s economic and fiscal future.

While it might not be the most earth-shattering anecdote, at least this gives some insight into the new Treasury Secretary’s nature and how he thinks. And I actually want to read past the fourth paragraph, which really wasn’t necessary in the other stories. It just shows that taking the time to find that little story can make all the difference when covering a story that everyone else is sure to have as well.