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'I've already considered that idea and rejected it'

rattner3.PNGIf "Overhaul," Steve Rattner's book on the auto rescue, has a hero, it's Larry Summers. Summers comes across pragmatic, decisive and fair. Rattner -- who tears into other officials, notably Sheila Bair -- says his discussions with Summers "were the high point of my Washington experience; I would leave convinced that there could be no happier future circumstance than the chance to work for him again."

But Summers is also one of the book's more amusing characters. His intellectual and managerial style are distinct enough that the index has six entries under "Larry Summers; style." Here's my favorite:

Once Diana Farrell began to offer an opinion, but before she passed the mid-point of expressing her thought, Larry interrupted to say (not harshly), "I've already considered that idea and rejected it." This so amused our younger colleagues that for weeks afterward they would say to one another, as they debated one proposal or another, "I've already considered that idea and rejected it."

By Ezra Klein  | October 12, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
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"Once Diana Farrell began to offer an opinion, but before she passed the mid-point of expressing her thought..."

Ah the hero...
He thinks of everything...
While the plebs are still in pajamas...

But what if Farrell's thought went non-linear after the half way point? Suppose it didn't slope upwards and bifurcate according to Summers' presuppositions? Or suppose it had a wee twist that might reflect an arch nuance? Then what? We will never know, because it has apparently been presupposed that our hero is omniscient.

On a deeper level, the anecdote strikes me as condemnation of the elitism of careerism. Isn't this a classic trope? The scene where the guy with a bunch of big degrees or money shuts down the acolyte without listening? And then other acolytes giggle over the poo-bahs choice of curt words?

I can understand why it one of your favorites Ezra...

Posted by: AgaBey | October 12, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Of Summers I think it should be said, as the sign says in St. Paul's Cathedral, "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice." (If you seek his monument, look around you.)

Of course St. Paul's is not a ruin. In this Wren's work differs from Summers'.

Posted by: DeliciousPundit | October 12, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

That isn't amusing, that's sociopathic and arrogant.

Posted by: Filler | October 12, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

So the scoreboard on Summers reads:

PRO: funny or mean, depending on how you think of bullying.
CON: too small stimulus, unconcerned about unemployment, crippled Obama presidency.

Posted by: chrismealy | October 12, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Chris, The crippling is yet to come w/Forclosuregate/banks tanking again/for reals

Posted by: carolerae48 | October 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

So, Summers can push around underlings and dismiss their ideas, while sucking up to the financial industry. That's one of the main problems right now--the arrogant, stuck-on-itself finacial industry thinks itself a giant held back by Liliputians, and the people running the show in Obama's administration have done nothing to dispute it. Birds of a feather...

Posted by: ciocia1 | October 12, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

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