When I saw the headline last night, I was pleased, Summers Withdraws Name for Fed Chairmanship. As I wrote about only Saturday, there are lots of reasons why Summers should not get the job. So it is good he is stepping back. Of course, I’m sure that he is only doing so because the White House counted up the votes and saw it just wasn’t going to happen.
That makes this whole thing a little less of a happy event. Now it is clear that despite Summers being at best a suboptimal pick, Obama really was committed to installing his golfing buddy as the head of the Federal Reserve. What’s more, in a statement, Obama said that Summers was “a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom, and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth.” Yeah, they faced down the economic crisis and they did a really bad job of it! For workers, this last 5 years has been an unmitigated disaster. I will allow that it’s been great for the banks, but that’s a reason to make Summers stay at Harvard, not to give him a promotion.
What’s most annoying about all of this is even with Summers stepping aside, we may still not get the best candidate to run the Fed. According to the Wall Street Journal, “One leading candidate is Janet Yellen, the Fed’s current vice chairwoman, who has garnered substantial support among Democrats in Congress and among economists. But the public lobbying on her behalf appears to have annoyed the president, say administration insiders, and may lead him to look elsewhere.” Is that really how it’s going to be? Is Obama going to nominate another member of his team that “faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression”? Are we going to see Timothy Geithner nominated now?
A poorly reported aspect of the Obama administration is just how insular it is. Obama has his little boys’ club—And it is a boys’ club!—that he doesn’t like to go outside of. It seems he thinks they are all smart guys. Why would he look any further than the narrow confines of these men’s New Democrat ideology? It is shockingly reminiscent of George W Bush.
This is another test of Obama. If he can’t manage to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, something is really wrong with him. There are lots of reasons he may not nominate her: he may simply be sexist, he may be unable to bring himself to support someone for a high profile position who isn’t a buddy, or it may be that he’s just spiteful and can’t deal with his constituency telling him what they want. None of these speak well of the man. My advice is to just get over all the personal pettiness and nominate the best person for the job.