Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who has been hanging out in Cape Cod all summer, did not want to campaign for Federal Reserve chair at first. According to The Washington Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb, Summers told his friends "no lobbying" when his name was first batted around to replace Ben Bernanke. Now, Summers has decided to "take off the gloves," and has instructed friends and former colleagues to counter attacks against him.
So far, Summers has had a rough go of it. Janet Yellen, his main competition for the Fed chair post, has had vocal supporters since day one. About a third of Democratic senators, including Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein, wrote President Obama a letter in late July urging him to pick Yellen. Polls show that economists think Yellen is the best and most likely choice to chair the Fed. Even Republicans, like Senator Pat Roberts, have come out and said they prefer Yellen over Summers (not that they really like either of them).
What Summers has that Yellen doesn't, however, is the support of important people in and connected to the White House. Obama went to bat for him at his NSA press conference earlier in August, calling attacks against him unfair, while notably ignoring criticism of Yellen. According to Goldfarb, Summers is getting help from recently departed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama's former adviser Jim Messina, and former Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. It helps to have these friends — Summers has visited the White House 15 times over the past two and a half years, while Yellen's only been once. Former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer has apparently tried to introduce Yellen to more White House aides to no avail.
Summers may have the support of important people, but it's not clear whether that helps public opinion of him. He's been criticized in the press as an architect of deregulation, being generally difficult to work with, and making sexist comments. Salon's Alex Pareene sarcastically tweeted Tuesday night:
feel like just one more White House-sourced story on why the White House loves Summers ought to do the trick, everyone'll get on board— Alex Pareene (@pareene) August 20, 2013
Obama has said he plans to make his decision in the fall.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.