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Posted at 3:13 PM ET, 12/30/2010

For National Economic Council, forget appearances

By Jonathan Bernstein

Noam Scheiber has a good discussion today of the pros and cons surrounding the possible appointment of Gene Sperling to replace Larry Summers at the National Economic Council (see also Ezra Klein). 

The job, an important one, requires an honest broker who is extremely familiar with and respected by the various agencies and bureaus within the executive branch that are involved in economic policy, and someone who has the confidence of the president.  Sperling certainly qualifies on the "familiar with" portion of that; as far as I know, he would be an excellent choice and performed well when he had the same position in the second Clinton administration. But I don't have the inside information required to know whether he's the best choice for the job.

What I can say with confidence is that in filling the position, President Obama would be quite foolish to worry about appearances. In particular, he should ignore what some apparently consider the appearance that Sperling is too friendly to Wall Street.  If he is, in fact, too friendly with Wall Street (or any other constituency group) to serve as an honest broker, it's a problem.  But, c'mon, appearances?  I doubt that more than 1 percent of the American voting public is even aware there is such a thing as a National Economic Council, let alone who serves as its chair and whether or not that person is "too close" to Wall Street.

Those who oppose the Obama administration's policies are going to attack (and claim that it's too sympathetic to whoever they consider to be Bad Guys) regardless of who gets this job.  If the economy stinks, people are going to think the Obama economic policies are disasters regardless of whether those policies are actually responsible, and certainly regardless of who helps coordinate those policies.  The "visuals" beyond that just aren't important.  What does matter is that the administration coordinates economic policy well, and if Sperling is the best person to do that, it doesn't matter whether his image is closer to Mal Reynolds or closer to Voldemort (sorry, non-geeks: Mal Reynolds is a good guy; Voldemort isn't).

By the way, still the best source for understanding what this job is actually about is Keith Hennessey's excellent primer.

Jonathan Bernstein writes about American politics, political institutions and democracy at A Plain Blog About Politics, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Jonathan Bernstein  | December 30, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
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I knew something was up when Obama didn't announce his NEC pick in December after he met with the other finalist a few times.

I don't think that Obama "clicked" with the other finalist but he has clicked with Gene Sperling.

Gene Sperling along with Lew worked together along with Biden and the Republicans to put the tax cut compromise together. Obama was overall happy withe compromise because of its potential stimulative affects. I think that experience improved Sperling's chances.

I have always liked Sperling on television when he spoke about the economy. I think he is a good choice.

Posted by: maritza1 | December 30, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Sperling has never actually worked on Wall St. other than being on some company boards according to his bio. "Progressives" allege he's all about Wall St, yet he works at CAP. More exaggeration I guess. On the other hand, some of the business journals seem to think the President of Yale, Richard Levin, is also a candidate. He knows a lot about China as he's made several trips. I think international economics might matter more than anything in our future.

Posted by: carolerae48 | December 30, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I guess it's just a big coincidence that everyone else Bernstein linked to here this week was part of Journ-O-List? Were you and your brother too? Funny how it was the "conservatives" being accused of group-think though.

Does anyone else want to discuss Ezra Klein's comments that the Constitution "has no binding power on anything" and is confusing because it is over 100 years old?

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 30, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Noam Scheiber - Journ-O-List
Ezra Klein - founder of Journ-O-List
Keith Hennessey - Journ-O-List
Kevin Drum - Journ-O-List
Brian Beutler - Journ-O-List
Aaron Carroll - Journ-O-List
Annie Lowrey - Journ-O-List (and Ezra's girlfriend)
Bryan Bender - Journ-O-List
Jack Healy - Journ-O-List
Matt Yglesias - Journ-O-List
Dave Weigel - Journ-O-List
Ian Millhiser - Journ-O-List
Steven Benen - Journ-O-List
Ta-Nehisi Coates - Journ-O-List
Nate Silver - Journ-O-List
John Sides - Journ-O-List
Ron Nixon - Journ-O-List
Brian Beutler - Journ-O-List

Jonathan and David Bernstein ?????

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 30, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

No, we really don't want to discuss anything with you, clawrence, because you are one of the most tedious people on earth.

You said yourself that a list-serv is 'harmless', you agree that we have a First Amendment that allows free speech, I assume, which precludes harrassing and censoring journalists. But you seem to have a secret fondness for the Stalinest way and a serious obsession with other people's private business and conversation.

Of course, your obsession with that List is only one among the hundreds of obssessions and conspiracy theories maintained by you and your fellow Borg rightwingers.

Posted by: fiona5 | December 30, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Great spoof today:


We the People of the United States progressive-minded citizens of the North American Province of the United Nations, in Order to form a more perfect Union obtain a far groovier chakra, establish SocialJustice, get righteous with Mother Earth, insure domestic Tranquilitypartnerships of any nature, provide for the common defencepromotion of peace, free love and a total lack of responsibility, promote the general creation of the Welfare State, and secure the Blessings of Liberty some boss doobage to for ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America North American Province of the United Nations.

Article I

Section 1

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives and shall be subjugated to the will of the United Nations.

Section 2

Clause 1: The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the severalblue States …

Clause 2: No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen approval of the Democrat Party.

Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers collected in mass quantities from the rich, which shall be determined to be anyone who makes more than $10,000.00 per year …

Clause 4: When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to media shall fill such Vacancies.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 30, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh look, he's made a McCarthy Black List for us. Do expose all the evil Commies in journalism for us, joseph, I mean, clawrence.

Posted by: fiona5 | December 30, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Clause 14: To make Rules for the Government and Regulation immediate dismantling of the land and naval Forces;

Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions No! No! No!;

Clause 16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress Can't we all just get along?;

Clause 17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, byCession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings All we are saying, is Give Peace a Chance...;--And

Clause 18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper... Blah, Blah, Blah...

Section 8? Wait, isn't there supposed to be something about subsidized housing? Oh, and Klinger wearing dresses? Oops! My bad! Wrong Section 8's. Nevermind.

Section 9

Clause 1: The Migration or Importation of such all Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit who manage to sneak across the borders, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person as long as they can be registered to vote as Democrats.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 30, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Section 8

Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect copious punitive Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare recipients of the United States...

Clause 2: To borrow steal Money on the credit of the United States;

Clause 3: To regulate Commerce with kiss the asses of foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Clause 4: To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization open the borders, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

Clause 5: To coin print Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures outcome of all future elections in favor of Democrats;

Clause 6: To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

Clause 7: To establish Post Offices and post Roads and to post the phone numbers of hot interns on the walls of the men's restroom;

Clause 8: To promote the Progressives of Science and useful tasteless Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries tax money for pictures of religious icons in jars of urine;

Clause 9: To recognize that this constitution Tribunals is wholly inferior to the supreme Court;

Clause 10: To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations Republicans and Conservatives;

Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water Peace, because if we just wish really, really hard and promise to get along with everybody, they will all love us and we can hold hands and hug and make love not war;

Clause 12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years more taxes for social programs;

Clause 13: To provide and maintain a Navy nice buzz;

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 30, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse


why are you here if you dont want to discuss things with the people on the blog???

It appears your sole purpose is to harass people who are discussing the issues at hand.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 30, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Fiona5, that's not the WHOLE List, just the select few linked to here this week. I also didn't say they were "harmless". I was asking a hypothetical question in that regard. Of course, I would never condone a violation of the First Amendment by government against any Journ-O-List. Sarah Palin, however, should never take a question from anyone on said List. That's not a violation of the First Amendment.

By all means, in return, please add me on your Troll Blocker.

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 30, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Just to be safe, Jonathan and David Bernstein should be added to the List for refusing to answer.

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 31, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Well, I said it last night and today heard on NPR that it might actually be a tactic for the future:

The Dems have now pointed out that the MAJORITY can use the current form of the filibuster to simply kill any legislation they don't particularly like.

Since to invoke cloture the Party moving cloture has to get sixty votes regardless, the Dems can easily kill any bill by having a member propose a filibuster. two days later The Majority Leader calls for a cloture vote, and 41 Dems stay home sick. Cloture fails and the Senate goes on about its work. In fact the use of Majority Cloture could actually cleanup the Senate's work load, because instead of sending bills to the appropriate committees to die of boredom, they can easily be called to the floor, proforma filibustered, and killed when cloture cannot be invoked. Time from proposal to disposal, two days and the Senate does its other work during those two days.

There are going to be a whole lot of very miffed Republicans when harry uses their own tactics against them.

Makes the old disappearing quorum seem byzantine.

Posted by: ceflynline | January 3, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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