Friday, September 6, 2013

WaPo Goes Much Further In For Summers

Along with yesterday's article in the NYT on Obama yet again really preferring Summers over Yellen, the Washington Post had its own variation of the same.  However, in contrast to the NYT's, WaPo's version really went whole hog for Summers.  What I am not clear on is if reporter Zachary Goldfarb actually knows how far out he is in pushing forward the pro-Summers line and is doing so to maintain access to White House officials, or if he really does not know what is up.  Neither of the articles mentioned at all the official who is clearly pushing this propaganda campaign for Obama, namely NEC Chair, Gene Sperling, who clashed with Yellen in the White House in the late years of the Clinton adminstration when he held the same position he does now and she was CEA Chair.

So, Goldfarb quotes by name a long string of current and mostly former administration officials, all but one of whom just fall over themselves in praising Summers and gushing about how great he and Obama got along when Summers was NEC Chair.  The praisers include David Axelrod, Rahm Emmanuel, an anonymous "former official," Summers's brother Richard (a psychiatrist and not a former official, but willing to expound on the theme of how Summers likes to pursue all possible angles and ideas supposedly), Pascal Noel, and Michael Barr.  While none of these are economists, they are all falling all over themselves to assure the readers how much Larry cares for the poor and the middle class and so on, despite his tough Wall Street image.

Among former officials, the only one not on board gushing is an economist, Christina Romer, who noted that while he is strong on substance he also needs "managerial skills and personality to win over a large committee," which, she notes "Based on both his tenure at Harvard and his work as NEC chair, it is not clear how strong Larry is on that second one."  Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (Dem) also expresses doubts about his anti-regulatory history, but all that is brushed aside, and Goldfarb informs us in no uncertain terms that, "But many of his colleagues say the style, however frustrating, usually led to better outcomes."  The article simply piles this sort of thing on more and more.

There are two major things it simply avoids mentioning.  One is anything substantial about Janet Yellen, particularly in comparison directly with Summers, aside from a brief mention at one point that "She faces wide backing and virtually no criticism.  Summers, meanwhile, has drawn his support mainly from current former Obama aides."  And this report is about that latter support, which is quoted at length and without caveats or further mention of Yellen.  I guess that is a report, but it comes across as an astoundingly preachy editorial on the first page.

The other item not mentioned, and also missing from the NYT article, indeed from practially any MSM article on Summers that I have seen, although it has been covered at length by some in the econoblogosphere, especially David Warsh (see ), is the matter of what really happened at Harvard. When Harvard is mentioned by Goldfarb, he essentially dismisses the problems there for Summers as just being about "his comments on womens' aptitude for math and science." Oh, so we can ignore that because it is just those whiney women like Romer going on again and trying to make Yellen into an affirmative action candidate, which clearly is inappropriate for such an important position. 

The problem is that what really did Summers in at Harvard was his lying to the faculty about his coverup of his helping out his coauthor, Andrei Shleifer, after Harvard had to cough up millions of dollars to settle for Shleifer's scandalous conduct in advising Russia in the 90s.  Needless to say, the real kicker here is not just Summers covering up for helping Shleifer at Harvard, it is that Summers himself  as Treasury Secretary had played a role in getting Shleifer appointed by AID to go to Russia and advise them while he got into hot water over insider trading.  This scandal involves Summers himself much more directly, even though there is no evidence that he personally gained from the insider deals that Shleifer, John Hey, and their wives engaged in.  That this is likely to come up in any Senate confirmation hearing is simply ignored.

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