THE SPINE OCTOBER 24, 2008
Yes, I actually do know who you are. Basically nothings. Oh, and at least one of you is crackers.If there is one indispensable person who should be presiding over the disentanglement of of our economic shipwreck it is Larry Summers. And also presiding over the reconstruction of our financial institutions with an emphasis on sound investment, transparency, public need, democratic ethos, far-reaching insight and simple downright honesty. Frankly, Summers is among the two or three most brilliant people I know. What's more, he can lay out in clear and coherent English intrinsically very complicated propositions.As the factotum editor-in-chief of The New Republic, I was furious with Summers (and a bit hurt besides) when he signed up to do a weekly column for the Financial Times. (And, by the way, Larry, you still owe us a review of the new--well, now not so new--biography of John Maynard Keynes.) So I now read the FT, and I have to admit that Summers' articles have helped me grasp the disorder better than any other writing in the press. He is not at all a hysteric. But he doesn't promise us the stars.George Bush is like Alfred E. Newman: "What, me worry?" Paulson is a fawn caught in the headlights. And, as you might expect from Bush administration personnel dealing now with this disaster, they were intrinsic to its making.Barack Obama will choose whomever he wants for secretary of the treasury. But the person he chooses will not be saddled with that piece of history. Of course, I don't know what's going to stop the uncontrolled downward spiral of the markets. On the other hand, I'd be willing to bet a hefty sum that, if Summers were the elected president's designee, it would mark the beginnings of a healthy and sustainable market rally.And that's not all that it would cause, all good.