Bill Clinton's treasury secretary is something of a rarity: a dyed-in-the-wool Wall Street moneyman and committed Democrat.
Robert E. Rubin was born and raised in New York City, moving with his parents and sister to Miami when he was nine. A product of public schools, Rubin graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1960 and from Yale Law School in 1964.
Signing on with a Wall Street Law firm, Rubin soon followed budding interests in finance to Goldman Sachs & Co., a preemininent New York investment bank. The boyish and rumpled Rubin quickly displayed a brilliant flair for predicting profitable risk arbitrage and trading stock options. After 21 years, he was named co-chairman, amassing some $100 million along the way.
Married with two sons, the soft-spoken grandson of a powerful Brooklyn Democrat was also putting out feelers in the political world, cultivating ties to former New York mayor David Dinkins, and rallying behind the doomed candidacy of Michael Dukakis.
He didn't meet Bill Clinton until 1991, but the two bonded quickly and Rubin became a frequent economic advisor to the Clinton-Gore ticket, and was considered on a short list for Treasury secretary. When Clinton instead went with renowned Washington hand, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Rubin was tapped to head the newly established National Economic Council.
From there, Rubin argued for steep deficit reduction in Clinton's early budgets, pushed to make the administration's health initiatives business-friendly, and counseled the president against "tax the rich" rhetoric. Though his fingerprints were on the president's ill-fated stimulus package, Rubin could claim part of the credit for one of the Clinton's major first-term victories -- passage of NAFTA.
The president nominated Rubin as Bentsen's successor at Treasury in 1994. After a quick confirmation, Rubin was soon confronted with a financial crisis in Mexico, and orchestrated the Clinton Administration's controversial, $20 billion loan guarantee program.
Though Republicans eventually gave Rubin high marks for the Mexico bailout, some lawmakers threatened impeachment after Rubin used creative accounting to keep the federal government running during the protracted budget fight of 1995.
That budget fight led to what may be viewed as the capstone of Rubin's tenure at Treasury, the balanced budget agreement agreed to by Congress and signed by the president in the summer of 1997. Though the jury is still out on whether the deal will work as promised, Rubin was one of its principal architects.
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