Tim Geithner is less popular than Jell-o on Facebook
Geithner's page, which a Treasury spokesman could not immediately confirm was legitimate, lists 718 fans. That's less than the 1,228 people who have told the hugely popular Web site that they like Jell-o, the 5,674 people who back Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the 22,426 fans of Budweiser and the 28,739 fans of Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange.
Nonetheless, there are Geithner groupies.
One fan wrote on his Facebook Wall: "Tim Geithner is an intelligent decent man doing well at perhaps the hardest job in the country. Thanks for the dedication to the task and for the good work so far! " Another writer urged the Secretary to "don't let the press get you down --I think you're doing a great job!" The comments were not all complimentary. At least one suggested he resign over how he handled the AIG bonus controversy.
Though it is unclear whether the Geithner Facebook page is an example of guerilla marketing, it does underscore the deep political hole he has dug for himself. Wall Street, at first, wanted his head on a platter after failing to provide sufficient detail about the Obama administration's plans to rescue the banks. The former head of the New York Fed, who got confirmed despite tax problems that would have sunk other nominees, he managed to get back in Wall Street's good graces after releasing a plan to encourage more private investments in distressed bank assets.
Some experts such as famed New York University economist Nouriel Roubini argue that Geithner deserves a break.
"Up until now, with all the government bailouts, the financial system has been barely treading water," wrote Roubini and his colleague Matthew Richardson in today's New York Daily News. "With this plan, it will still be a hard swim, but, at least, there is a path to shore."
Even if Geithner becomes a Wall Street hero, that may not translate into Facebook popularity. Many of Facebook's young users may not have heard of him while others would rather use the social networking site to catch up with people they have not seen since elementary school. Geithner, though, is surviving despite hints by some in Congress he should resign.
Still, Geithner's page has attracted the curious such as blogger Michael Comeau, who has recently started a blog called GeithnerWatch. He became a fan because he wanted see what the Facebook world thinks of him.
"I'm not making a comparison here, but even serial killers have fans!," Comeau, a former colleague of mine, wrote in an email.
Indeed, the official Charles Manson Fan Club lists 2,793 members.