Jack Lew was in the hot seat this morning.
As the guest of honor at the breakfast given by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., he got a thorough grilling from David Rubenstein.
The club’s president and the co-founder of the Carlyle Group wanted to know why Lew can’t hold a job.
Since the beginning of the Barack Obama administration, Lew has been director of the office of management and budget, White House chief of staff, deputy secretary of state, and the secretary of the treasury, his current post.
Lew said he has trouble saying no to the president. His next dream job? “Citizen is the highest office we can all hold.”
As for his infamously loopy signature, revealed on Twitter this summer, he said he’ll do his best to brush it up for the sake of the currency.
“I’ve been working on my penmanship for 40 years,” he told guests gathered at the Grand Hyatt Washington. “It’s a life-long undertaking.”
“It is bizarre,” said Revolution LLC Chairman Steve Case of Lew’s John Hancock. Case and Lew have teamed up on several projects.
Others spotted at the breakfast included Swiss Ambassador Manuel Sager, journalist Chris Matthews and media executive George Vradenburg III.
Who was the smartest person Lew worked for? Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? Nice try, but Lew said comparing their intellectual prowess was “a foolhardy proposition.”
He also passed on talking about possibilities for Federal Reserve chairman.
Lew stressed the importance of raising the debt limit, blaming Congress for failing to act.
“Failure to raise the debt limit is a self-inflicted wound to the economy,” he said. “The time to make policy is before, not after we make commitments. Congress can get it done. The time to act is now.”
Rubenstein suggested challenging recalcitrant members to a duel, like Lew’s 18th-century predecessor Alexander Hamilton.
Lew didn’t seem to think this was a good idea.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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