What are the political implications of a Summers nomination?
In a word, bad. In 11 words: Democrats would be insane to let the President nominate Larry Summers. Why?
Women voters are critical to the party's prospects. Dave Johnson has rounded up some of the worst evidence of Summers' seeming misogyny, and it's not pretty. What's more, the President would be choosing -- and his party would be confirming -- a man with a bad reputation for sexism, and they'd be bypassing a highly qualified female candidate to do it.
Janet Yellen would be breaking a glass ceiling as the first female Fed chair. A Summers nomination would feel like ground glass.
Everybody hates Larry. Women aren't alone in their dislike of Summers. Conservatives hate him because he's a Democrat. Clean-government advocates hate him because he deregulated Wall Street, took millions from it, then went back into government. Progressives hate him because he killed much-needed regulation and represented big banks' interests while he was in government. Biologists hate him because he distorts their findings to support his misogyny. Many human beings reportedly hate him just for being himself.
And since women are also conservatives, progressives, clean-government advocates, biologists, and human beings -- since, in fact, all those categories have significant overlap -- the Summers-loathing has the potential to grow exponentially over the next three years.
He lacks credibility. Fairly or not, Summers is inextricably associated in the public mind with the evils that crashed the economy: deregulation, the revolving door, and corporate-Democratic indifference toward the poor and the dying middle class. (Republicans, by contrast, are openly hostile.)
How's this perception going to work out when Summers goes before Congress or the public to explain why we still don't have a decent employment picture, five or six or seven years after the people who made him rich crashed the economy -- and never paid for their crimes? And how will the public respond if there's another financial crisis -- if, say, another major bank goes down and triggers a panic -- and their key words of reassurance must come from Summers?
The President would be sabotaging himself. This week's economic speech shows that the President realizes he needs to shore up his political capital in advance of the next budget showdown with Congress. That means returning to the pro-jobs, pro-middle class themes that won him re-election. But the public will measure his deeds against his words, and that includes his choices for a key economic post.
Most of all, a Summers nomination would reinforce the public perception that this Administration is too cozy with Wall Street. The President won't be running for office again, but he'll need to muster political support for his agenda. And since almost everyone on the Hill does plan to run again, will his party really let him hurt its prospects like this?
The Boys of Summers
It's true that Summers has his supporters, but most of them have chosen to remain anonymous. There's a very good reason for that: if everybody else hates him, they wouldn't want the aggravation.
Here's another good reason: Many of those supporters are Wall Street CEOs. As Klein and Soltas write, the White House is "getting positive feedback from fans of Summers, who are underrepresented in the econo-blogosphere, but very present in the ranks of economic and Wall Street heavyweights who've worked or fundraised at high levels in Democratic administrations."
We're told that Summers also has strong support from the likes of Robert Rubin, Tim Geithner, and Roger Altman, as well as White House insiders Gene Sperling and Jason Furman. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby is also reportedly a Summers supporter.
Needless to say, we're talking about a heavily male cohort here. (The banker support also undercuts a White House claim, which Klein and Soltas relay in the same piece, that "as much as the left mistrusts Summers on financial regulation for his actions in the 1990s, the White House believes that he, like many others, is strongly committed to regulating Wall Street now.")