Summers pulls name from Fed debate

The startling development raises questions about who will lead the central bank when Bernanke steps down.

THE WASHINGTON POSTSeptember 16, 2013 

Federal Reserve Summers

Lawrence Summers


WASHINGTON — Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and senior White House economic adviser, made the announcement Sunday. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke steps down in four months.

Summers withdrew after an intense uproar among liberal Democrats, women’s groups and other advocacy organizations against his potential nomination — a highly unusual assault on the candidate who President Barack Obama appeared to favor for the job.

Obama has said he is considering two other candidates for the post, Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen and former Fed vice chairman Don Kohn. But he was leaning toward picking Summers, people close to the White House say, and the economist’s decision to take his name out of the ring might lead Obama to pursue a wider range of candidates.

Summers helped Obama navigate the depths of the financial crisis and recession, providing a degree of support that Obama has told aides he deeply valued. No official, with the possible exception of former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, did more to influence the president’s response to the traumatic events he faced at the beginning of his term, which Obama plans to highlight this week as he marks the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis.

On Sunday, Summers telephoned the president to tell him he was withdrawing his name from consideration.

“This is a complex moment in our national life,” Summers wrote in a letter to the president. “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.”

Obama accepted Summers’s decision, lauding him and saying that he planned to continue to consult his former adviser.

The decision marks a disappointing turn of events for the renowned economist, who had operated at the highest levels of academia and government. But he has been dogged by controversies.

Summers has come under fire for his support for deregulating parts of the banking sector while he was Treasury secretary under former President Bill Clinton. While president of Harvard University in 2005, he also sparked controversy for comments on women’s aptitude in math and science.

The contest for Fed chairman had taken on the form of a political campaign this summer, as allies of Summers and Yellen advanced their cases in the news media — and in behind-the-scenes whispering campaigns.

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