One more thing: Unless I've missed it, not a single woman in a position of influence has spoken up for Summers. All of his reported defenders have been male.
All the President's Men
All-male chorus lines work better in Off Broadway musicals than they do in policy. The President's team is badly in need of more female representation, and nowhere more so than economically. Yet with the exception of Christina Romer -- who, like other women, was reportedly bullied and marginalized by Summers -- the President's economic team has been almost exclusively male.
The Administration has already received bad publicity -- not all of it well-sourced or credible, by any means -- for being a "boys' club." Deserved or not -- and for us the jury's still out -- that's a reputation worth fighting, not reinforcing.
So, given the many good reasons not to nominate Summers, how did he become the President's preferred choice? And why are they fighting such strong headwinds for him?
What were they thinking?
We can't know that, of course, but there are several possibilities:
They didn't see it coming... It's possible that, while the White House clearly knew Summers has enemies, the depth of the blowback has surprised them. It may be continuing to surprise them on a daily basis, and they may be hoping it will fade away as quickly as it appeared.
The President wants Summers, come hell or high water. In which case, that's exactly how he'll get him.
They have a Plan B. They've got somebody lined up -- somebody other than Yellen, that is -- if they can't push Summers through the nomination process (a procedure which is increasingly starting to resemble the process by which a python digests a pig).
Bait, meet switch.
That last possibility is the one we should really be worried about. The last time Summers was up for a White House job, we got Geithner instead. He was worse than Summers would have been, at least on policy. But the White House was able to tell several key constituencies "We heard you," while actually selecting an even more pro-Wall Street candidate.
Don't discount the possibility that we'll see a similar bait and switch routine here. The President and his team could bypass both Summers and Yellen, toss a Geithner type in our lap (it might even be Geithner himself), and score a political victory while tacking further right on economic policy.
That's not a reason to embrace Summers, but it means his opposition should be tempered with a clear message: The next chair must take the Fed's job-creation responsibilities much more importantly than Ben Bernanke has done. So far the Summers resistance has been closely linked with pro-Yellen sentiments, which is good, but it should also be made clear that a Geithner-like surprise nominee would be equally unacceptable.
We're not saying that a bait-and-switch will happen. But if it does, remember: You read it here first.