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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summers Out: Good Riddance

Let me go on the record that the news that Larry Summers is leaving the Administration is of the 'good' variety. Very good. One truism that has emerged from my readings about the people in the White House is that Summers is just an unbelievable asshole. And I say that not just because I disagree with his tendency to coddle big business and Wall Street. Others, like Geithner and Orzag, have a similar mindset (which, I should add, comes from a genuine conviction that this is in the best interest of the country as a whole, Summers included). But those other guys aren't raging dicks who try to keep dissenting views from even reaching the President's ear. Ironically, Summers job description was to lay out the range of views on the economy for the President. (He was originally to have Geithner's job, but they decided to give him this role instead as a way of avoiding a confirmation fight) He used this position marginalize people who he disagreed with, notably Christina Romer and Austan Goolsbee. Apparently it's almost universally accepted that Summers is one of the most brilliant economists around today, which is why Obama wanted him close, but he really couldn't have been more poorly suited to his role. Good riddance!

P.S. On the other hand, I actually find rumors that another famed asshole, Rahm Emmanuel, will soon be leaving to run for Mayor of Chicago to be disconcerting. I think his take-no-prisoners approach actually is well suited for his position. Again, ideologically his instincts always seem to be to strike a deal with the opposition whenever possible to "get points on the board," rather than "go big." He repeatedly tried to convince Obama health care reform wasn't worth attempting... but when Obama made it clear that he was going for it and needed everyone on board Rahm put his objections aside and sweat and bled to make it happen. Many on the left blame him for all the disappointments of the last couple years, because he undercuts all Obama's promises of transformational change. But that's because he's been around and has come to believe that trying for everything leaves you with nothing, and that's it's better to push forward a few yards at a time and just keep moving. He has no patience for dreamers or even idealists. Amid today's partisan trench warfare, I think he may be just the guy for his job. He'd be hard to replace.

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