Bernanke or Bust

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Was there really a choice about reappointing Ben Bernanke to chair the Fed? President Obama's team leaked the announcement last night and the two will stand together before the cameras this morning at the high school on Martha's Vineyard just before the markets open in New York. Obama could have pushed the Fed to the left with an Alan Blinder, a top Fed official in the Clinton years, or made a diversity appointment. But Bernanke has what passes for market confidence these days and whatever you think of the last year of financial crisis management from the former Princeton professor, he certainly took the Fed in new directions--remaking the institution with a series of aggressive actions that either saved the world, if you look at it optimistically, or set the stage for the hyperinflation to come, if you're a pessimist. Either way, how could Obama not pick the quiet man of action? The timing of the announcement was a surprise since the White House had vowed no news would be made on the presidential vacation. But the choice itself couldn't be less surprising.

So future historians? Who will turn out to be the most important George W. Bush hire? Dick Cheney, who drove the war and an aggressive foreign policy that changed Iraq and the Middle East? John Roberts, who will probably reign over the Supreme Court for decades, shaping opinions on everything from gun control to free speech? Or will it be Bernanke, another Republican pick like Alan Greenspan, who the Democratic president felt he had no choice but to keep. Discuss amongst yourselves....

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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