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Larry Summers on the Left?

By Matthew Yglesias on June 9, 2009 at 11:28 am

"Larry Summers on the Left?"

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Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers

Felix Salmon writes:

Jackie Calmes got some pretty great access for her 1900-word article on how the Obama economic team works — which, as the Economist notes, “might more aptly be called ‘Larry Summers Disagrees With Everyone.’”

The thing about the piece, as with all pieces that involve “great access,” is that the fact of its existence probably carries more information than anything in the piece. In other words, why did Jackie Calmes get all this access? The conceit of the piece is that suddenly Lawrence Summers, Tim Geithner, Christina Romer, Austan Goolsbee and others were seized by fits of candor. But that’s not how these things work.

One point about the article is that the portrait of Summers is not especially flattering. People who’ve heard things like “he may be brilliant, but he’s a jerk” will not come away with the impression that Summers is actually a sweet guy. But another aspect of the piece is that it’s the first depiction of inside baseball policymaking from either the Obama or Clinton administrations in which Summers is consistently described as being on the left in internal administration disagreement. Goolsbee doesn’t want to bail out Chrysler, Summers does. Geithner doesn’t want to talk about nationalizing banks, Summers does. Romer doesn’t want to claim that health reform would increase US competitiveness, Summers does.

It’s almost as if someone is trying to improve Summers’ standing among the Democratic Party’s left-wing base.

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