To be sure, Tim’s successes were not unalloyed. With limits to his authority and the toxic political environment, his team was not able to do much to ameliorate the housing collapse or to untangle the two collapsed mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the hands of Congress, the needed overhaul of financial regulation became an unwieldy mess; the 398 separate regulations required by Dodd-Frank will ultimately be judged to go well beyond what was needed. Of course, the problems of high unemployment and slow growth remain worrisome.
But as Tim stood before us that winter evening, we all thought back to the financial crisis and how thoroughly he had been vindicated by its denouement. Tim would never gloat; characteristically, he stuck to the high road, praising his team and thanking the members for their service.
Leaving the reception, I walked past the portraits of previous Treasury secretaries that line the building’s wide hallways and mused about how history would assess Tim. Near great? Without a doubt. Great? Certainly warranted, in my estimation.