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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

L'├ętat, c'est moi

by digby

The president is not amused:
Surprised and irritated to see Senate Democrats touting a preferred candidate for Federal Reserve chairman, White House officials have moved behind the scenes to quash the campaign and are insisting President Barack Obama not be pressured as he mulls whom to nominate, people familiar with the effort say.

The White House appears to have gotten its message across, with many Senate Democrats no longer trying to publicly press Mr. Obama to nominate Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

In recent days, top Democratic senators have vowed to support whomever he picks. Mr. Bernanke's second four-year term as Fed chairman expires in January and he isn't expected to seek reappointment.

The conversations between White House and Capitol Hill officials underscore the sensitivities surrounding the nomination. Mr. Obama is considering several people for the Fed post, but two have emerged as front-runners: Ms. Yellen and former White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers. Mr. Obama has called this one of the most important economic decisions he will make in his presidency, and whoever is chosen will leave an imprint on the nation's economy after the president has left office.

The president has chafed at the prospect of being boxed in on what he views as clear presidential authority, but some lawmakers argue they have a constitutional duty both to confirm the Fed nominee and make known their preferences.

Roughly a third of the 54 Democratic and allied senators signed a July 25 letter urging Mr. Obama to nominate Ms. Yellen. Democratic senators who attached their names included Dick Durbin, the assistant majority leader from Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Angus King, an Independent from Maine. Mr. Durbin said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) circulated the letter.

Some Democrats have recently criticized Mr. Summers for his ties to Wall Street and what some consider an abrasive personal style. But Mr. Obama defended Mr. Summers in closed-door meetings with Democratic lawmakers last month, and again at a news conference on Friday, calling him a hardworking public servant.

After word of the letter leaked out, senior White House aides privately conveyed the president's displeasure to their counterparts on Capitol Hill, officials said. In one recent meeting, deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors discussed the Fed appointment with David Krone, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). Mr. Nabors came away from the meeting with the assurance that Mr. Reid would support whomever Mr. Obama chooses, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

"The message was: 'The president thinks it's his prerogative to make these decisions,' " a senior Democratic Senate aide said.
Democracy is so icky sometimes, isn't it, what with people expressing their opinions all over the place and telling the president what they think he should do and all? Why a president can hardly do anything anymore without a bunch of citizens and lawmakers weighing in on his decisions. I'll bet it makes you want to retreat into the oval office and do nothing but analyze presidential kill lists and secret domestic surveillance programs just to get away from it all.

The president has the right and obligation to appoint a Fed Chair and members of his Party, by tradition, will in all likelihood confirm whomever that is. But there is no tradition, law or rule that says the public, the party and members of congress cannot make their wishes known ahead of time and try to lobby the White House to make whatever choices they prefer. In fact, it's downright undemocratic for the executive to imply that they shouldn't.

I'm going to guess that what the White House really wants is not for Democrats to pipe down but for them to enthusiastically back Summers publicly and say he should be chosen on the merits over anyone else. It's too late for that. If the president wants to appoint Summers over the objections of virtually everyone, then he should go ahead and do it. I'm sure Harry Reid will not produce a defeat in the Senate. But there is not going to be a vote by acclamation from the entire country because Larry Summers is an unpopular choice. I'm sorry that's inconvenient for the White House but it is what it is. Perhaps instead of trying to muzzle the critics he ought to consider why they feel the way they do. It's not as if he doesn't have other excellent candidates for the job.