Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Were There Shock Waves Inside the White House Because of the Larry Summers' Fiasco?

David Warsh hints that the fiasco might have cost Gene Sperling his job:
Gene Sperling, 55, President Obama’s top economic counselor, will be leaving his job as Director of the National Economic Council at the end of the year, the White House announced last Friday.  Named to replace him was Jeffrey Zients, 46, who until April served as acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Did Sperling jump, or was he pushed?  We can leave the question to the well-sourced Ezra Klein, of The Washington Post.  A Yale Law School graduate, Sperling entered national politics in 1993 as deputy to National Economic Council director Robert Rubin. He met his wife, Allison Abner, while she was writing episodes for the TV series The West Wing. They have a five-year-old daughter and a bi-coastal marriage, according toWikipedia. To my mind that’s more than enough reason for Sperling to want to quit his high-pressure job after three years (and two before that at the Treasury Department).

But it is also the case that, as NEC director, Sperling orchestrated the highly-public run-off between Lawrence Summers, his long-time mentor, and Federal Reserve Board vice chair Janet Yellen, over the nomination to the head the Fed.  With the appointment of Zients, Obama gets a neutral manager and a source of disinterested advice. A graduate of Duke University, who rose rapidly through the ranks of Mercer Management Consulting, Bain & Co., and David W. Bradley’s highly successful Washington consulting firms, Zients has no ties to Summers.
 Zients, in fact, has little ties with anything in the economics world. He appears to be a crony operative. From The Daily Caller:
A top former Obama Cabinet member who met with IRS officials at the White House during the targeting scandal is currently out of the country, a White House source told The Daily Caller.

Former acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients has still not returned from an overseas exile that began after his departure from the Obama administration in April, two weeks before the IRS scandal broke.

Zients met with then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Shulman’s political aide Jonathan Davis and spokesman Frank Keith at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House complex on April 24, 2012

Only Zients, who was in charge of OMB at the time, and the three men from the IRS attended the meeting, according to White House visitor logs. Their meeting ran for just under eight and a half hours into the night, the logs reveal.

The next day, April 25, the IRS’s chief counsel’s office — led by William Wilkins, who met with Obama at the White House that same week — sent Washington-based IRS officials “additional comments on the draft guidance.” These guidelines covered approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications, according to a report on the IRS scandal compiled by Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.
Expect the NEC under Zients to become an early launching pad for Obama's post presidential career.

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