How to Understand Gene Sperling

More

Over the years, I've had various contacts with Gene Sperling, who was introduced by President Obama today as the new director of the National Economic Council, replacing Larry Summers. I don't know him well. But the sudden "controversy" surrounding Sperling--the charge that he is in thrall to Wall Street because Goldman Sachs paid him to run an anti-poverty program--surprised me, since anyone who knows him at all, or has been spun by him, or has read his book or magazine writing, would pretty quickly conclude that he is the furthest thing from a Wall Street lackey; he is, in fact, an utter policy wonk and creature of Washington; and is eminently suited to the position not least because he held it under the last Democratic president.


But I also realize that most people are not Washington reporters or policy wonks with exposure to Sperling, and that rough measures of character, such as whether or not one has accepted a paycheck from Goldman Sachs, are often quite accurate--in fact, accepting a Goldman paycheck is probably a better measure than most. Nevertheless, it would lead to the wrong conclusion here. And an excellent way for skeptics to set their mind at ease would be to read this 1999 profile of Sperling by Matt Miller that was, unbelievably, killed by The New Republic. Not only is it a highly accurate and persuasive portrait of Sperling and all that he stands for, it's also as good an argument as I've read for the proposition that often in Washington it is better to cut deals that to insist, in every instance, on ideological purity.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Did I Study Physics?

In this hand-drawn animation, a college graduate explains why she chose her major—and what it taught her about herself.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In