jack-lew-signature.jpg

Dance of the Cabinet Secretaries

One of my favorite parts of presidential transitions is watching a bored media fake interest in tertiary cabinet secretaries that they’ve been ignoring for four years. Yesterday, I actually saw an announcement of the departure of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis reported with the ‘BREAKING’ prefix, which is a little like calling 911 for a hangnail. The vast majority of Americans wouldn’t know the Secretary of Labor from the Secretary of Labor’s secretary. 

The speculation on Solis, by the way, is that she’s leaving Washington to come back home to Southern California and run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In one respect, I find that laudable — far too few people who taste power in Washington ever go back home to make a difference in their community. On the other hand, you have to pity those other Board members. How many arguments is she going to try to win with “When I was at the White House …”?

When it comes to non-story stories from the transition, however, the controversy surrounding President Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, is the best. What’s that? You haven’t heard about it yet? Well, brace yourself …

Jack Lew has a bad signature. And if he’s confirmed, it’s going on your money:

Here’s Kevin Roose at New York magazine unloading on it:

If Lew is confirmed as Treasury secretary, his signature will occupy the lower-right-hand spot on U.S. paper currency. And that signature, which was widely mocked when it surfaced on a September 2011 memorandum, is legitimately crazy.

Here are some things it reminds us of:

– a Slinky that has lost its spring

– one of those Crazy Straws you get at Six Flags

– Sally Brown’s hair in Peanuts

– a slip of paper in Office Max that people use to try out new pens

Clearly, Lew will need to upgrade his penmanship, à la Geithner, before he even thinks about touching the dollar bill. Minting a trillion-dollar coin seems absolutely reasonable, as fiscal policy plans go, compared to having this childish loop-de-loop plastered all over the legal tender of the United States.

Your dogged press, ladies and gentleman.

By the way, not to indulge this banality too much, but I do have a serious question on this front: how much stock do you actually put in someone’s handwriting? I tend to think of handwriting analysis as one step removed from palm reading. I have absolutely horrid script, for instance — my signature always looks like it was executed in the midst of a bear mauling — but that owes to the fact that I have a tremor which keeps me from holding a pen still. Your average handwriting analyst, however, is probably going to look at my signature and deduce some deep personal meaning from what’s essentially a neurological defect. Isn’t it possible that Jack Lew just signs things this way because he’s a really busy guy that probably has to sign more things in a day than most of us do in a month?

  1. WI Con

    I’ll take a shot at some interpretation. I have a pretty unruly Polish last name unlike ‘Jack Lew’ – come on, it may as well be Smith!

    My take on that signature is that of a petty politico who’s trying to give off the vibe of being ‘oh so busy, too busy doing the People’s Business’ that trying ever so slightly to take ownership of something is just beneath him.

  2. kylez

    So some future historian, when Jack Lew is a mostly forgotten name, can have fun learning just what the heck is the deal with money from the teens.

  3. Wylee Coyote
    WI Con: My take on that signature is that of a petty politico who’s trying to give off the vibe of being ‘oh so busy, too busy doing the People’s Business’ that trying ever so slightly to take ownership of something is just beneath him.

    In fairness, Mr. Lew will have to sign an awful lot of bills to keep up with the Obama inflation.  Best to keep it simple.

  4. George Savage
    C

    I have a certain sympathy for Mr. Lew on this point, but only on this point.  

    Looking back, I note that my signature was completely legible prior to graduating medical school.  However, a requirement of my post-graduate training as a surgery resident was signing my name hundreds of time each day:  doctor’s orders, progress notes, discharge summaries, prescriptions–a seemingly endless list.  So, by necessity, I quickly resorted to an idiosyncratic angular scrawl that afflicts my penmanship to this day.

  5. Trace

    I have the 21st century version of this affliction — signing my name with my finger on an electronic touch screen. I start off OK, quickly realize the futility and then quickly descend into a squiggle.

  6. Frank Soto
    C
    George Savage: I have a certain sympathy for Mr. Lew on this point, but only on this point.  

    Looking back, I note that my signature was completely legible prior to graduating medical school.  However, a requirement of my post-graduate training as a surgery resident was signing my name hundreds of time each day:  doctor’s orders, progress notes, discharge summaries, prescriptions–a seemingly endless list.  So, by necessity, I quickly resorted to an idiosyncratic angular scrawl that afflicts my penmanship to this day. · 7 minutes ago

    I come from the opposite side of this equation.  I’m a programmer, and frequently go months without ever having to physically write something.  As such, my handwriting is illegible even to me at times.    

    It can be brutal when I have to go to the white board to explain something to someone.  I generally stick to pictures when I do.  I doubt I’m alone in this.

  7. Miffed White Male
    Frank Soto

    George Savage: I have a certain sympathy for Mr. Lew on this point, but only on this point.  

    Looking back, I note that my signature was completely legible prior to graduating medical school.  However, a requirement of my post-graduate training as a surgery resident was signing my name hundreds of time each day:  doctor’s orders, progress notes, discharge summaries, prescriptions–a seemingly endless list.  So, by necessity, I quickly resorted to an idiosyncratic angular scrawl that afflicts my penmanship to this day. · 7 minutes ago

    I come from the opposite side of this equation.  I’m a programmer, and frequently go months without ever having to physically write something.  As such, my handwriting is illegible even to me at times.    

    It can be brutal when I have to go to the white board to explain something to someone.  I generally stick to pictures when I do.  I doubt I’m alone in this. · 3 minutes ago

    Amen.  My handwriting (actually hand-printing) looks like a 7-year-olds.  It’s embarrassing when I actually have to handwrite a note.

    One of the reasons I got into the computer industry was so I could type everything…

  8. EJHill

    The Dance of The Cabinet Secretaries is sooooo exciting. This years leaked rehearsal photos from Foggy Bottom are enough to send chills up one’s spine!

    Dance.jpg

  9. Leigh

    But it looks like he isn’t remotely trying.  It’s a set of gracefully meaningless loops.

    I actually thought it was an ironically fitting, if trivial, detail. 

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