He is walking through the smoke of a controlled burn in the Sierra Nevadas. He is talking about the people and the life he left behind in Washington. " . . . and it wasn't about politics, they were non-political. These people were killing themselves -- in Don's case, literally."

Kashkari was a 35-year-old business school graduate from a suburb of Akron, Ohio, who had gone to Washington in 2006 to learn how government worked. Then came the recession, and through a freakish set of circumstances, mixing pluck, cataclysm and luck, he was appointed by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson as the federal bailout chief.

Suddenly, he was in charge of $700 billion.