Writing on the new Ron Suskind book about Obama's economic team, the WaPo includes a chilling detail about dysfunction in the White House:
Meeting over dinner at the Bombay Club one night, [director of the National Economic Council] Summers told [budget director] Orszag that “we’re really home alone,” according to the book. “I mean it,” Summers said. “We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.”
Obama, utterly lacking in executive experience? Who could have seen that being a problem?
Mr. Suskind got a non-denial denial from Mr. Summers:
Suskind asked Summers about the comment. “What I’m happy to say is, the problems were immense, they came from a number of very different sources, they were all coming at once, and there were not very many of us,” Summers replied.
And the WaPo got a more vigorous non-denial:
In an e-mail Friday to The Post, Summers, who left the administration last year, said, “The hearsay attributed to me is a combination of fiction, distortion, and words taken out of context. I can’t speak to what others have told Mr. Suskind, but I have always believed that the president has led this country with determined, steady and practical leadership.”
Well. I don't intend to re-read Bob Woodward's "The Agenda" about the early days of the Clinton Administration when they were dealing with the aftermath of the Bush 41 recession. But I will note that, as Undersecretary for International Affairs, Summers was an outsider in those debates. It was only later that Clinton's economic team became geniuses; in 1994, the portrayal of Clinton was not exactly that of an adult in charge. Here is our very own Andrew Sullivan:
It's page 289, and we still don't know [what this Presidency is about]. After listening to the Senator from Nebraska's subsequent demolition of the Clinton Presidency, the President's men simply parrot back that their boss agrees with everything Senator Kerrey says. At this point in the book, this is a credible statement. At this point in the book, Mr. Clinton seems to agree with everything anybody says.
And the Times book review by Christopher Lehman-Haupt:
Moreover, the President keeps having tantrums, so often and so violently that you come think of them as his way of keeping himself going. And his anguished indecisiveness can make Hamlet look like Fortinbras.
But eventually Clinton, Rubin and Sumers became the geniuses that gave us the Clinton tech bubble and dergulated financial services.
THE SUMMERS OF '93: Per my Amazon search of The Agenda, Lawrence Summers was passed over for chair of the NEC (the controversial memo about pollution and Africa) and relegated to the Treasury; he appears in a big pre-inaugural briefing held in Little Rock, and then drops out of the story.