Opinion: Whether it’s McCain or Obama, Henry Paulson won’t be staying on at Treasury


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We don’t even have official presidential nominees yet, but there has already been speculation that whoever ends up in the Oval Office will ask two Cabinet secretaries who are dealing with particularly sensitive issues — Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. (the mortgage/credit crises) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (Iraq and Afghanistan) — to stay on in the new administration, at least for a little while.

Gates was asked about that during a news conference in June and responded: ‘The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me.’ Still, as The Times reported that month, national security advisors for both Barack Obama and John McCain strongly support the idea of Gates remaining in charge at the Pentagon, and Gates himself has asked his senior civilian advisors to be prepared to stick around.


Paulson’s turn to discuss the issue came during an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw taped Saturday in Beijing, where the Treasury secretary and his family are on vacation, and broadcast this morning on ‘Meet the Press’:

BROKAW: I know you had a conversation recently with the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama — we presume he’ll be the nominee. There’s been a lot of speculation that you may stay on, whoever’s elected president, as Treasury secretary, because you’re midstream in some profound changes. Would you like to stay on?

PAULSON: No, Tom, I wouldn’t. I’m, I’m, I, I care a lot about this country. I’m going to run right up until the end. I’m very, very focused on doing the right thing for the United States of America. And whoever the next candidate is, whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama — the next president is — I will do everything I can to make for a smooth transition, to work closely with my successor in Treasury to do everything I can to help out. But I’m, I’m, I’m focused on getting everything done I can get done between now and January 19th. BROKAW: That’s a firm denial that you would be interested in extending? PAULSON: Yeah. It couldn’t be any firmer. I, I’ve — you know, when I came down to Washington, people said to me, ‘How could you want to do something for just two and a half years?’ And I said, ‘Two and a half years sounds like a long time to me, and I’m going to — I, I’m going to define my job expansively. I’m going to do everything I can to step up to any problems that, that are going to face the country.’ But again, I, I look forward to doing other things, you know, next year.

— Leslie Hoffecker