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Web Letter

I confess that I find Mr. Ames's "disappointment" in the president-elect somewhat baffling. At no point during the presidential campaign did Mr. Obama pretend to be anything other than what he obviously is: a center-right corporate candidate with strong ties to the financial services and insurance industries. Throughout the Democratic primary campaign, his positions were clearly the least progressive of any of the major candidates. Alone among them, he rejected universal healthcare. His professed admiration for Ronald Reagan, his FISA vote, his rejection of public financing and his frankly bizarre call during the Democratic debates for giving corporations "a seat at the table" (as if they were somehow lacking a voice in Washington) should have been enough to impugn his progressive credentials. Had the progressive media been less blinded by Mr. Obama's undoubted charm and been more diligent in exploring his actual positions, they would not be quite so disappointed now. I am sure that future historians will write volumes about the progressive delusion that Mr. Obama's secret leftist side would suddenly come out of the closet in some miraculous post-election epiphany.

I do applaud the article for calling attention to Mr. Summers's despicably sexist remarks, but I can't help but notice the double standard at work here. Had he made similar remarks about Hispanics, African-Americans, Jews, or Eastern Europeans. his very name would be anathema to any administration, Republican or Democrat. But because his bigotry was directed towards women, he is still taken seriously in the public sphere. The article's implications that these horrid remarks are only significant "in the context" of Mr. Summers's other flaws shows that the progressive press shares the same blind spot as the culture at large where sexism is concerned. Clearly we all still have a long way to go.

Stephen O. Gombosi

Boulder, CO

Nov 28 2008 - 4:14pm

Web Letter

Let me join several others here who have spoken out against this heinous piece of writing perpetrated by Mr. Ames. While I've heard some pretty bad things about Mr. Summers, I know nothing about his economic philosophies. After reading this article I still know nothing about what he thinks or advocates.

Mr. Ames's thesis seems to be that Mr. Summers knows bad people and goes to places where bad things happen. Find me a person involved in finance at the highest levels who doesn't have a number of bad associates and I'll give you some well-deserved kudos. Crony capitalism certainly got us into this mess, but Ames fails to even show that Summers is a crony capitalist, just says that he associates with them.

I subscribed to The Nation when I was living in the US. If this is the level of writing I can expect from your publication, I'm certainly happy that I don't subscribe now.

Nicholas Short

Coupeville, WA

Nov 27 2008 - 12:21am

Web Letter

This article is truly appalling. It is at once uninformed and dishonest, which is an impressive feat. The fact that only one of the eleven previous commenters recognized the article's ludicrous distortions speaks to the intelligence of this magazine's regular readership. There are too many distortions in this article for one comment, so I'll restrict myself to the two most ridiculous claims.

First: The assertion that Summers was somehow responsible for the rise in Lithuania's suicide rate is so brazenly dishonest that the editors of The Nation should be ashamed. There are stronger arguments in tabloids. And if Summers is going to be held responsible for everything that happened in Lithuania while he was advising the Lithuanian government on economic policy, then shouldn't he also get the credit for the economic prosperity that America experienced while Summers was at Treasury? Nah. Things like "honesty" and "intellectual rigour" shouldn't get in the way of a good/contrived narrative.

Second: Yes, Summers worked at the CEA during the Reagan administration, but so did Paul Krugman. Times were much different, and government much less politicized, back in those days. And anyone who knows anything about economic policy during the Reagan administration knows that Martin Feldstein was famous for opposing the supply-siders in the Reagan administration. Either Mr. Ames didn't know this, in which case he's a bad journalist, or he willfully misrepresented the truth. Take your pick.

Writers at The Nation often wonder why their ideas aren't taken more seriously. The answer is that even for starry-eyed 25-year-olds, they're just not that bright. And this article is Exhibit A.

Nick Jones

New York, NY

Nov 24 2008 - 4:22am

Web Letter

The Obama transition team's individual agency review departments started meeting this week to make policy, budgetary and personnel recommendations to the president-elect, and the first cabinet-level appointee is expected to be named by the end of the month. Given that the economy is at the top of everyone's agenda, it won't be suprising if the treasury secretary pick is announced first.

Now is the time to get involved.

Hopefully, we can still convince President-elect Obama that Summers isn't the right person to be running the nation's economic recovery efforts. At the very least, expressing our displeasure with Summers now could help tip the balance in favor of progressive candidates for other key Obama administration positions.

Thank you to The Nation for posting the online petition opposing Summers. Folks on Facebook should also join the "Is Larry Summers Really the Best We Can Do?" group online.

Arthur Stamoulis

Beaverton, OR

Nov 19 2008 - 3:08pm

Web Letter

I really do not see the historical accuracy of the assertion, "the right-wing war against New Deal regulation of the banking system and financial markets..." Surely the most significant regulation of the system is the power to determine the value of the money we use and the power to determine the price ("interest") people pay to use that money.

There has been no significant deregulation of the system. Neither GOP or Democratic parties have questioned the system in a century. There was some tinkering at the edges, but over the past ninety-eight years of the Federal Reserve 's total control of the dollar, it has lost 99 percent of its value.

That is, as I suspect Lenin would have said, this is control of the "commanding heights" of the economy.

The housing boom was caused by Federal Reserve fiat money policies and, as night follows the day, the bust follows the boom. The bust is the market's attempt to reset a system that got out of whack.

So the politicians in the Bush administration used the crisis caused by the Fed as an excuse to raid taxpayers' funds in the last months of their power... shame on Congress for enabling them! Shame on senators Obama, Biden and McCain for voting for the billionaire banksters' bailout, which we now see was a "bait and switch" operation from the start.

Would someone like the gentleman suggested for secretary of the treasury be able to resist further goodies for the banksters? I doubt it.

The president-elect has the opportunity to really break with the past and endorse real change. Change like that proposed by John F. Kennedy, who tried to introduce treasury notes (backed by silver) to compete with the Fed's fiat paper dollars. Honest money would be real change!

Is BHO another JFK? Time will tell...

For more of this type of analysis, see: www.mises.org.

Ralph Fucetola, JD

Newton, NJ

Nov 17 2008 - 12:02am

Web Letter

The Nation and many other so-called progressive publications never put any demands on Obama, and now they must reap the bitter fruit of their ill-sown seed. My laughter will be bitter indeed as I read article after pleading article spew forth from these pages. This laughter will turn into incredulous guffaws when, in four years, these same magazines and progressives will tell me, again, that it is better to waste my vote on the likes of a victorious impostor rather than guard it for truly valiant if defeated small "d" democrats. Here's to the hope that this doesn't come to pass. Here's to the hope that you will join us, because we can see that Barack Obama certainly does not harbor such intentions.

Bill Novak

Chester, MT

Nov 13 2008 - 7:26pm

Web Letter

Apparently, the last twenty months have been too euphoric for anyone to notice: Mr. Obama is not a progressive. I am beginning to wonder how long the Kool-Aid will last?

Mr. Obama is the latest iteration of corporate centrism--à la Clinton. It's not like Mr. Summers just appeared on stage here is it? I suppose now would be a good time for The Nation to seriously review the entire list of those surrounding Mr. Obama during the transition. Who do you see? How many mentioned prospects are progressives? How many are the old retread Clinton corporatists--or, shudder, Bushies?

I don't know when the balloon will finally pop. I suspect for the astute it will be soon--like in December. For the public it may take three or four years before they realize deliverance is not at hand.

I'm certainly happy he beat Mr. McCain. I certainly wish him well. But I voted for the true progressive in the race, you know, the one that couldn't buy a column inch of coverage in progressive magazines wallowing in Obamamania.

Drats! Foiled again!

Mark Deneen

Eureka, CA

Nov 12 2008 - 11:53am

Web Letter

I read Larry Summer's inflammatory remarks--that women can't do math, women aren't willing to put in long hours--at the time he made them. They were as galling in context as out.

More recent studies of math students suggest Summers was simply wrong.

Ann Darby

New York, NY

Nov 12 2008 - 11:49am

Web Letter

I've never been a fan of Summers, in any respect. But to play devil's advocate: Summers is an extremely smart guy, and he's not as impervious to evidence as this article makes him out to be. It could be that in this particular situation and the job that has to be done, there is some benefit from having someone with an insider's knowledge of the financial world and a lot of smarts. My question would be whether he would be truly willing to take his marching orders form President Obama and execute some items he might not pick on his own. Sure, Krugman et al. would be more simpatico politically, but do they have the ability to jump into and handle this mess immediately? Probably not, which is why Obama is driven almost inexorably back to the old hands of Clintonia.

Also, to be crass but realistic, can Obama risk a pick that would unsettle the markets further?

By the way, while he was a disaster as president of Harvard, I don't think his ill-advised comments about women in science should be part of a brief against him. That controversy was just an excuse to bring up the real grievances Harvard faculty had with his authoritarian, arrogant manner. Summers's response included some positive steps towards promoting woman scientists.

That episode was a classic case of a really smart guy thinking he can work out answers to a problem other people have studied long and hard, with just a few minutes of thought and the back of an envelope. But in a situation where he does know what he's talking about, that native intelligence could be handy.

Thad Williamson

Richmond, VA

Nov 12 2008 - 3:31am

Web Letter

Mr. Ames is to be commended for pointing out what a cretin Lawrence Summers is. But he fails to mention a more important point: every single one of the candidates for Treasury Secretary on Obama's list is just as bad or worse--Timothy Geithner, Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, etc. Each one of these people are partisans of the same liberalizing ideology as Summers, and for the most part, they have just as much blood on their hands, if not more.

A letter-writing campaign that substitutes Geithner for Summers, or Volcker for Rubin, is a massive waste of energy. We need a much more expansive list of unacceptable figures: in short, every single person whose name has been floated for the job so far.

Right now, semi-progressive figures like Krugman, Stiglitz and Galbraith aren't even in the running. Their chances of getting the job are akin to Kucinich's chances during the Democratic primaries.

Jasper Bernes

UC Berkeley, CA

Nov 11 2008 - 4:25pm