How Paulson really got the Treasury job
By David Weidner, MarketWatchLast Update: 11:00 AM ET Jun 1, 2006
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Henry Paulson is the next U.S. Treasury secretary, but it was only after a key meeting with the president that the two men came to an agreement.
What follows are excerpts of a secret transcript as transcribed from the Nixon Memorial Tape Machine in the Oval Office and obtained by MarketWatch through the Freedom of Disinformation Act.
The President of the United States: Thanks for coming in. I think you know why we've asked you here. We need a new ambassador to Iraq. Just kidding. Had you going. Looked a little nervous. But before we begin, I'd just like to say how we here in Washington really admire the work you've done at Goldblum. You've done a heckuva job, Hanky.
Paulson: Thanks, but please don't call me that.
POTUS: Heh-heh. Fair enough, Paulie. Unlike the vice president, I'm a straight shooter. This Treasury job is hard, hard, hard work. Now, my people tell me we have a lot in common. You run the world's most prestigious investment bank. I owned a part of the Texas Rangers. We both have MBAs. You like the environment. I ... well ... we both have China on our minds.
Paulson: That's true. In fact, I'd like to just say ...
POTUS: There will be time enough for gabbing about the rudermentaries of all that later. Let me ask you this: Are you a Christian?
Paulson: A Christian Scientist.
POTUS: Sounds half-right to me. So, anyway, I've had some problems with corporate CEOs in the past. I had to change my number to avoid Kenny Boy. I brought in Paul O'Neill from Alcoa, and all the tin man did was whine about Iraq. Snowy has been great -- he likes a strong dollar, have you heard that? Heh-heh. Now there's a guy who can stay on message. But Snowy's act is falling a little flat with investors.
Paulson: With all due respect, Mr. President, if I were to take this job, I'd like to be able to speak my mind.
POTUS: Well, if your mind likes a strong dollar ... But I regress. To be honest, I like you, Paulie, because people like you. You may not know this, and because I only speak in front of military audiences these days, I didn't know this myself until Karl Rove told me off the record, but people aren't real excited about me right now. Freedom is on the march, but it won't pay your electric bill come August.
Paulson: Off the top of my head, you could start by detailing a comprehensive energy program that sets aggressive targets for eliminating our dependence on oil. Green fuels would help the environment and curtail global warming. You might convene a meeting with the world's auto manufacturers. You might start thinking about an exit strategy in Iraq ...
POTUS: Whoa there, big fella. Too much information. Don't go all Bernanke-Bartiromo on me. I need you to give me your secrets and work some of that Wall Street magic. You've been building up your private-equity funds and competing against your own advisory clients. You do so much double dealing, for all I know you might be secretary of the Chinese treasury, too. You head the Nature Conservancy, which has been accused of doing questionable land deals with its own important members. You have a former employee charged with insider trading. You ran off Grasso and had your own lieutenant named head of the stock exchange. And let's not forget your new corporate headquarters near Ground Zero. You guys (GS
) are enjoying the most profitable times in your history, and still you were awarded billions in government-backed Liberty Bonds.
Paulson: We manage our conflicts.
Voice from under the desk: I'll say.
Paulson: Who's that? I thought we were alone.
POTUS: Nobody. The vice president is in a secure location. By the way, I hear you're a bird watcher. Well, Dick watches birds, too. Watches birds and shoots lawyers, heh-heh. Ouch. Now, despite all of the scandals and the criticism, Goldstein is still the envy of the financial world. You're seen as one of the most astute leaders on Wall Street. That's the kind of spin we need around here. That's why when Josh Bolton mentioned you, I said, "Bring 'im on."
Paulson: Now wait just a minute. At Goldman, we have an internal system that ensures we keep our clients' interests first. There's no double dealing, just seizing opportunities. As for insider trading, Goldman is an organization of 31,000 entrepreneurial people. It's impossible to monitor each and everyone entirely. So the Nature Conservancy saves little animals by buying land; is it my fault that my rich friends own all the land? Also, may I remind you that the Big Board's board dumped Grasso. I was just a director. And I hated John Thain. I mean I hated to lose John Thain to the New York Stock Exchange (NYX
) . As for our new headquarters, we were very concerned about security. Did I mention we are building a library for the neighborhood?
Voice from under the desk: Not bad. Remind me about this guy when the CEO of Halliburton wants to spend more time with his family. I think we got our man. Get Josh to call Hastert.
POTUS: Paulie, just one more thing.
Paulson: What, sir?
POTUS: How do you like your dollar?
Paulson: I think we have a deal.
POTUS: Mission accomplished.