Larry Summers has never been adored for his social charms, but even some enemies grudgingly admit his brilliance. As director of Obama's National Economic Council, the former Harvard economist established himself as the White House's resident deficit-hawk--a role that has hardly endeared him to Washington liberals. Last week, the anti-Summers sentiment came to a head as Bloomberg's Al Hunt reported rumbles of dissatisfaction within the administration. Now bloggers are debating whether Summers is being "Greg Craiged," or pushed out of office by a high-level "whisper campaign."
- Summers Is Not a Team Player, according to Hunt. Key sources of his--"administration insiders, prominent outside
Democratic economic advisers and a few Congressional
that Summers is "brilliant on policy" but that his lack of
collaboration, tendency to dismiss fellow advisers, and inability to
communicate a clear economic message make him "ill-suited for a
high-level staff job."
- Summers May Be on His Way Out, but Not for a While, predicts James Pethokoukis at Reuters. "A quick exit for Larry Summers? That's the goal of an incipient whispering campaign within segments of his own party," but "Summers isn't going anywhere right now. Imagine the strange optics of axing the White House's economic guru just when President Obama is arguing that his policies are slowly righting the ship. But should the economy dip again or November's elections prove disastrous, there will be a political price." And Summers may not be the only one to pay it--Pethokoukis suggests Tim Geithner might want to start fretting as well.
- Purging Summers Would Help Obama Ditch His Pro-Wall Street Image, suggests Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider. "Summers is known for being 'brilliant,' but he's disliked and carries tons of baggage... If 2010 emerges as the year of the elephant like so many expect, get ready for a major shakeup, including the end of the line for both Summers and probably Geithner. The policies won't change much, but some fresh blood will make them more palatable."
- Just Who's Behind These Rumors?, Slate's Mickey Kaus asks. "The common denominator in at least one of the anonymous Craig-slagging stories and Hunt's anonymous Summers-slagging story: White House aide Tom Donilon, 'a well-regarded political operative ... seen as an extension of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.' Just sayin'..."
- But Who Would Replace Him?, wonders Bruce Bartlett at Capital Gains and Games. "I don't buy it. First, I don't see the whispering campaign against Summers as anywhere close to that which preceded the firing of Treasury secretaries Paul O'Neill and John Snow. Second, I agree with Jim Pethokoukis (here) that there is no one in the wings in a position to replace him. I'm willing to bet that Larry will still be on the job a year from now."