That President Obama intended to nominate White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew as his next Treasury Secretary was probably the most open secret in Washington. In fact, Obama kept Lew out of the recent talks because the president was "saving him" -- Obama was "reluctant to embroil him in tense negotiations if he needs the Senate to approve his nomination."
And so it came as no surprise when the president introduced Lew this afternoon as his choice to replace Tim Geithner at the Treasury Department.
I suppose the first question after any nomination announcement is whether Senate confirmation is likely. In this case, the Senate Republican minority already hates him, but history is clearly on Lew's side -- not only has it been 169 years since a Treasury nominee lost a confirmation vote, but Lew has personally been subjected to the Senate confirmation process five times. The combined number of "nay" votes? Zero.
That said, it's worth considering why, exactly, the GOP has come to dislike Lew so much that some Senate Republicans started announcing their opposition to his nomination before he was even introduced.
The answer, it appears, is that GOP leaders see him as too competent and knowledgeable, which has gotten in the way of Republican plans.
The New York Times had a fascinating piece last year on the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis negotiations, and House Speaker John Boehner's frustrations that Lew had a "detailed knowledge of the budget" that "outpaced anyone else's in the room." It got to the point that Boehner kept trying to get Lew out of the room, in the hopes that it'd be easier to strike a GOP-friendly deal.
Matt Yglesias explained last April:
Any time Lew, the math guy, was out of the room [the Republican proposal] could look like a promising approach. But if the math guy kept saying the central tenet of the proposal was founded on bad math, then actually no progress was being made. So for a time Boehner got the math guy out of the room and it looked like progress was getting made. But clearly the president of the United States isn't going to agree to a budget deal without running it by his budget director and, indeed, it turned out that "the framework negotiated by Obama, Daley, and Geithner -- and laid out in the Republicans' offer sheet -- unsettled the stomachs of some White House aides" one of whom I'm going to guess was Lew. As Bai tells it, as soon as the deal exited that room it immediately started deflating.
So, Republicans hate Lew the same way a con man hates the guy who knows how a con works.
Of course, some on the left have raised concerns about Lew, too, most notably the fact that worked briefly on Wall Street. That's true, though I think there's evidence to suggest his work was largely administrative and he was never actually a Wall Street insider.
That said, progressives concerned with Lew's ideology should re-read Michael Grunwald's "The New New Deal," in which Lew is presented as one of the most ambitious Keynesians in the Obama administration.