Washington – During a meeting on the 2010 budget at the White House Monday, President Obama repeatedly threw various pieces of fruit at Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, according to several people who attended the meeting.
Most of the fruit was thrown while Mr. Geithner was trying to speak, according to Senator Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat who chairs the Budget Committee.
“First it was an apple, while Secretary Geithner was trying to make a point about reducing government spending,” Mr. Conrad said. “Secretary Geithner just looked up for a moment at President Obama, who looked back at him as if nothing had happened. Then the secretary started speaking again, and a moment or two later an orange came across the table, on a bit of an arc, and hit Secretary Geithner in the chin and then fell to the floor. He looked at President Obama again. No reaction. No indication anything had been done. And this went on for the entire time the secretary was trying to make his points, until the president ran out of fruit.”
Mr. Conrad was hesitant to speculate as to the reason behind the president’s actions. But he acknowledged that it is Mr. Geithner, more than any other government figure, who is most associated with what many see as an insufficient White House response to the continuing economic crisis.
“It’s possible it’s just pent-up frustration from the past few months,” Mr. Conrad said. “Maybe for a lot of the negative feedback, the criticism they’ve received regarding their response so far.”
It was Mr. Geithner who was held responsible for lack of detail in the bank rescue plan announced in February, which caused unease and a 4% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Mr. Geithner was criticized for his handling of bonus payments to executives at AIG. And just this week, The New York Times published an expose of sorts on the close relationships Mr. Geithner shares with many Wall Street players. That article may have been something of a last straw for the president in terms of his treasury secretary, though there is no indication that he has any plans to replace him at this time.
“I don’t think he wants to necessarily make a change,” Mr. Conrad said. “But I think he wanted Secretary Geithner to know that he’s displeased with his performance thus far, and maybe in how that has reflected poorly on his administration, and on his first 100 days as president. And one way to show that to someone is to hurl fruit at them from across the table. I mean, I’ve never tried it, but from what I can tell, it works like a charm.”