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That reputation already has drawn a pledge to block Lew’s nomination even before Obama formally announced it. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in a statement Wednesday that Lew “must never be secretary of the Treasury.”
Those close to Lew inside and outside the White House say he is a “mensch” who frustrated Republicans with an encyclopedic command of facts that tended to undercut their arguments.
According to Woodward, Lew also was soured by what he saw as Republican disrespect for the president, particularly when Boehner reufsed for a time to take Obama’s calls.
Lew is fiercely loyal to his boss, and they enjoy a brotherly relationship, White House insiders say, pointing to Lew’s omnipresence in official White House photos. He is one of a small group seen praying with the president on the day of last month’s massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut – a moment that Obama has described as the worst in his presidency.
Tevi Troy, an observant Jew who was deputy health secretary under President George W. Bush and who debated Lew during the election, said ideological differences should not undercut a nominee and that he hoped to see Lew confirmed.
“He is ideological and very committed to entitlements without full recognition of the fiscal challenges we face,” he said. “I hope as Treasury secretary he will come to some sort of agreement that will alleviate our dire fiscal situation.”
Otherwise, Troy said, he was a fan of Lew for raising the roofbeams for observant Jews.
“I’m a fan of people who balance religious observance and high-level government service,” Troy said. “It’s great that it shows that Jews at whatever observance level can serve at high levels of governments.”
Lew’s value is not just his example but also his advice, said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the director of American Friends of Lubavitch, who often acts as an adviser to devout Jews in Washington seeking to balance observance and public service.