Jacob Heilbrunn

Larry Summers, Blowhard

 Larry Summers, who has stepped down as an adviser to President Obama, holds the  distinction, in a very crowded field, of being one of the most pompous government officials in recent memory. As Dana Milbank observes in the Washington Post, Summers couldn't even gracefully manage his own exit from the administration. Instead, in a farewell address at the Economic Policy Institute, he remained true to himself--sneering at everyone as he departed.

Fortunately, Summers' goverment service has presumably reached its terminus. Summers is symptomatic of the problems that have plagued Obama, which is to say that he exemplifies the Ivy League syndrome. He is a high IQ moron.

Of course Obama put all his faith in the wunderkinder from the Ivy Leagues who would supposedly turn around the economy. They never did. Instead, Summers, a protege of the now-discredited Robert Rubin, had no real remedies for the catastrophes that he helped bring about during his years as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration--a post that he should never have occupied. Now Summers apparently thinks that everything will be hunky-dory with the economy. This blowhard told Milbank that it's "not always easy for people to understand," but things aren't so bad.

10 percent unemployment? Crushing federal debt? No matter. As Milbank acidly put it, "Americans don't know how good they've got it--because they aren't as smart as Larry Summers."

Smart. The word brings to mind an anecdote about Saul Bellow that Irving Kristol once recounted:

Saul, then an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, was, like so many of us in the 1930s, powerfully attracted to the ideologies of socialism, Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism, as well as to the idea of “the Revolution.” He and a group of highly intellectual and like-minded fellow students would meet frequently at his aunt’s apartment, which was located next to the university. The meetings lasted long into the night, as abstract points of Marxism and Leninism agitated and excited these young intellectuals. Saul’s aunt, meanwhile, would try to slow things down by stuffing their mouths with tea and cakes. After the meetings broke up in the early hours of the morning, Saul’s aunt would remark to him: “Your friends, they are so smart, so smart. But stupid!”

 It could serve as an epitaph for the career of Larry Summers as well.