3:32 pm Jan. 10, 2013
President Obama officially announced the nomination of his chief of staff, Jack Lew, to head the Treasury Department in a ceremony at the White House this afternoon.
"As a kid growing up in Queens, I had dreams of making a difference in the world," said Lew, the son of a rare-book seller from Forest Hills.
Obama, who was joined by outgoing secretary Tim Geithner, described Lew as an accomplished public servant who has been involved in the nation's economic policy going back to when he helped negotiate a Social Security compromise with Ronald Reagan while serving as a congressional aide to Tip O'Neill.
Obama called him a "low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras," and described him as a kind of utility player in the upper reaches of the federal goverment, who he could "put at any position" and know he'd do well.
"I don’t want to see him go because it's working out really well for me to have him here in the White House," said Obama, who will now begin the search for his fifth chief of staff in five years. "But my loss will be the nation's gain."
Geithner, who appeared to tear up at one point during his remarks, praised Lew as "calm under pressure."
Lew's long resume and low-key nature make him a relatively uncontroversial selection, though some Republicans have already signaled they will challenge his nomination.
But the mood ast the ceremony was light-hearted, with plenty of jokes about Lew's incomprehensible signature and what it means for the inscription on the dollar bills produced during his tenure.
"I thought I knew you pretty well, but it was only yesterday that I discovered that we both share a common challenge with penmanship," Lew said to Geithner, who modified his own illegible signature for his official duties.
"I had never noticed Jack’s signature and when this was highlighted yesterday in the press," Obama said in closing. "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."
It should make for an easier process than some of Obama's other nominees.
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