Who do you support to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed? Janet Yellen or Larry Summers? Ezra Klein reports today that Yellen supporters are blanketing the airwaves with endorsements, but Summers supporters are oddly reticent to speak publicly. Nonetheless, he figures it’s worthwhile to pass along the (anonymous) pro-Summers case that’s making the rounds of the White House.
The argument comes in five parts, and for what it’s worth, I consider #1 ridiculous, #2 doubtful, and #3 and #4 perfectly reasonable. You can read them and decide for yourself. But I was pretty taken aback by #5:
Backlash to the gender issue. This isn’t part of the case for Summers, exactly, but it’s part of the psychology of his supporters right now. People involved in the White House’s Fed search really, really don’t like the implication that they’re sexists. They see the allegation that gender is playing a role here as absurd and offensive and an effort to back them into making a choice based on political correctness rather than the merits. It’s a bit hard to gauge this, but my sense is the intense anger over the allegations is hardening people’s positions, as they don’t want to submit to a pressure campaign they consider deeply unfair.
I don’t get this. What I’ve seen are lots of gender-coded complaints coming from conservatives about how Yellen would be little more than a PC diversity choice. This is ridiculous and has gotten lots of pushback. I’ve also seen lots of liberals saying that it would be great to break one of the last glass ceilings in Washington and have a woman in the top spot at the Fed.
But what I haven’t seen are arguments that Team Obama would be outing themselves as sexists if they chose Summers. Have I just missed them? Maybe. But if Ezra is right about this, it sure seems as if the Obama folks are being a little hypersensitive.