President Barack Obama on Thursday formally nominated White House chief of staff Jack Lew to succeed departing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—but joked that Lew’s now-famously loopy signature had almost cost him the job.
“I had never noticed Jack’s signature,” Obama said in a ceremony in the White House’s East Room, with both men in attendance. “When this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him.
“Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency should he be confirmed as secretary of the Treasury,” the president added, drawing laughs from the audience.
Obama has been filling out key posts ahead of the official beginning of his second term. He has also nominated Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state, Republican former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to be secretary of Defense, and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA.
The president, who takes the oath of office in not quite two weeks, appears to be choosing trusted advisers for key positions—people who have already had a hand in shaping his policies, not breath-of-fresh-air outsiders who might try to steer his second term in a radically new direction. He has also disappointed some observers who had hoped for a more diverse second-term Cabinet.
Geithner made no mention of Lew’s signature, which resembles an aerial photo of the trajectory of an out-of-control Zamboni. But Lew happily got in on the act.
“Tim, you’ve been a friend and a colleague for many years—actually decades,” the wonky longtime economic policymaker said. “You know, I thought I knew you pretty well, but it was only yesterday that I discovered that we both share a common challenge with penmanship.”
He was referring to Geithner's own signature woes, which led him to change his signature when he became Treasury secretary.