On March 26, Fox Business News's Charlie Gasparino reported
that Larry Summers, the chairman of the National Economic Council, had
begun talking to anonymous associates about retiring after the November election. Circuits pinged everywhere in
Washington. Later that week, the big rumor was that Rahm Emanuel
himself was making a secret list of people who might be potential
replacements for Summers. Or that Rahm had begun to ask people for names
of suggested replacements. Then came a report in National Journal about Summers's "ego massage," suggesting that
the former Harvard president had been complaining about his status ever
since President Obama decided to renew Ben Bernanke's Fed presidency for
a second term and demanding frivolous perks. So is he leaving? Is he
being pushed out?
What's the truth? It's not all that complicated, but it's not easy to convey in a way that makes a TV news producer very happy.
Point one: Summers, like every member of Obama's cabinet, serves at the pleasure of the president. Summers said as much this weekend, although he hastened to add that he was most happy with his current assignment. He has a busy job, even though most of the major economic projects are not subject to his direct oversight. The administration is creating economic policy, almost daily. There are jobs to be found. Summers rides herd over the administration's huge infrastructure renewal program. There's an enormous international component to his job that is rarely remarked upon; on everything related to China except for Iran sanctions, he's the lead, and he's in the Iran meetings, too. No one else in the administration is on a first name basis with as many Asian leaders.