Was it all the negative articles in which the other front-runner for Federal Reserve Chair, Janet L. Yellen, was compared to Lawrence Summers and Summers was found wanting? Was it that, plus the snarky articles pointing out that despite what some saw as Yellen’s superior credentials, that Obama was intent on naming Summers to replace Ben Bernanke as the head of the Federal Reserve? Was it the remaining residue of sexism that plagued Summers when he was the president of Harvard University that finally caught up with the politically correct police guarding the gates in Washington?
According to the letter Summers released following his telephone call to the White House to inform the president of his decision, he wanted the job but recognized the deleterious sideshow that would ensue were the president to name the prickly former secretary of the treasury.
But timing was probably the decisive factor in Summers’ withdrawal. Had the president not just gone through a bruising clash with the left wing of his party over the potential use of military force in Syria, which followed on the revelations of this administration’s sanctioned government snooping by the National Security Agency, the president might have pushed hard for his choice, and Summers might have been willing to take on whatever criticism would come his way in a confirmation hearing. But this summer’s one-two NSA-Syria punch sucked out all the air from Summers’ sails.
“I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration or, ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery,” was what the 58-year old Summers wrote, according to an article posted to the Wall Street Journal website late Sunday afternoon.
The Federal Reserve system, which sets monetary policy for the country, is the central banking system of the United States. The chairmanship of the Fed will be open after January 31, when the second term of the current occupant, Ben Bernanke, concludes. Bernanke did not wish to continue for a third term.
Mr. Obama accepted Summers’ withdrawal, although it was widely believed that the former secretary of the treasury and president of Harvard University was the president’s first choice.
Obama described Summers as “a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom, and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today.”
While Summers was the first Jewish president of Harvard University, he would hardly have been the first Jewish chairman of the Federal Reserve.
In fact, while the chairman of the Fed has been a Jew for more than the past 25 years, with Alan Greenspan at the helm from 1987 – 2006, and then Bernanke in the seat from 2006 until his term ends in early 2014, there have been at least three other chairmen who have been Jewish. However, there has never been a woman chair, and the likely choice now for President Obama is Janet Yellen.
Yellen, 67 years old, is currently the vice-chair of the Fed. She is also Jewish.
Is it likely the old anti-Semitic canards about Jews running the global financial market will start up again if Yellen is named? No, because they never stopped. Enter the words “Jew” and “Federal Reserve” in a search engine and be prepared to see lots of hysterical rants from Jew-haters.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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