A lesson in White House economic Kremlinology

Simon Johnson reads the entrails and says Larry Summers is moving away from Geithner's pro-bank stance

By Andrew Leonard
July 2, 2009 9:39PM (UTC)
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Simon Johnson, the notoriously indefatigable critic of the Obama administration's approach to resolving the financial crisis, suggests today in the New York Times that a split is emerging between Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner on economic policy.

The two "are not on convergent paths," he writes, while suggesting that Summers is moving toward a more Wall Street-adversarial position closer to that of David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel.


This theory will no doubt cause consternation for those for whom Summers is the root of all neoliberal deregulatory evil. But at best, Johnson's column is thinly sourced. One data point is an unsourced assertion in a Times article earlier this month that has Summers supposedly favoring "nationalizing some big banks." Johnson also writes that "behind the scenes, the banking lobby complains about [Summers' National] economic council but not about Treasury."

The whole thing has the feel of some serious inside baseball. Not so long ago, we were hearing about how Geithner was Summers' protégé and how well the two worked together. Now, Johnson, who may not actually be an Obama advisor, but has been working very hard to influence administration policy, seems to be sticking a crowbar into an almost invisible crack, hoping to lever it into a gaping chasm.

We will await further revelations. But for the moment, this serving of Kremlinology seems like thin gruel.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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