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Warren Buffett to Timothy Geithner: Your 'muddled' message hurting recovery

March 9, 2009 |  9:39 am

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is having a bad week. And it's only Monday.

The negative reviews started this morning when Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, an early supporter of Barack Obama, delivered a sobering edict on Geithner's performance. During a three-hour appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box," the Oracle of Omaha said the economy "has fallen off a cliff" and that so far, the message from the U.S. government has been "muddled."

One possible reason: a vacuum at the top. So far Geithner is the only confirmed political appointment at Treasury. After two high-profile candidates withdrew their names last week, the department is still scrambling to fill key positions even as billions are going out the door to try to stem to losses in the nation's banking industry. As the New York Times put it today:

In the six weeks since Mr. Geithner took over as Treasury secretary, he and a skeleton crew of unofficial senior advisers have been racing to make decisions that will shape the future of the banking, insurance, housing and automobile industries. But even as he maintains a frenetic pace -- unveiling plans, testifying before Congress and negotiating new bailouts with the likes of Citigroup, General Motors and the American International Group -- there are signs that events are getting ahead of him.

Still, Buffett urged patience, saying, "You can't turn around on a dime."

But "Saturday Night Live" couldn't wait. Over the weekend, the late-night parody place took aim at the Treasury secretary's seeming paucity of ideas in a skit that offers viewers a chance to solve the nation's economic woes.

-- Johanna Neuman

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