Keep Paulson On?

I’m in a bipartisan mood, although I’m sure it won’t last long.

But as long as it does, I should mention that if he wins, it might well behoove a President Obama to keep Henry Paulson on as Treasury Secretary. No one really knows what to do about the financial meltdown, but Paulson seems to have the confidence of the markets as well as anyone, and seems to be doing as competent a job as can be done about it.

Paulson also comes with credentials that any Democratic President should like. He’s a strong environmentalist, who has spoken out loudly on the climate change issue, and has hired some very smart people at the Treasury (such as Resources for the Future’s William Pizer) to work on the issue. He puts his money where his mouth is, at least to some extent: his campaign contributions are almost universally Republican, but he has given several thousand dollars to the League of Conservation Voters PAC. Interestingly, shortly after becoming Treasury Secretary, Paulson also said that one of his priorities was narrowing economic inequality; I don’t know how sincere he is about that, but most Republicans think that even mentioning it is akin to Marxism.

Moreover, it’s useful that Paulson seems to have excellent contacts and working relationships with China, which will be America’s most challenging bilateral relationship for the next decades.

When John Kennedy became President, he installed Republican Douglas Dillon in Cabinet. Which position? Treasury. If Paulson can be loyal to a President Obama, it’s something to strongly consider.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.