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Legacy Content / INSIDE WASHINGTON

Summers' Ego Massage

March 26, 2010

Hardly a soul in official Washington doesn't know that National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers can be very high maintenance. Brilliant, bullying, and packing an ego the size of the national debt. Even President Obama has been frustrated with Summers a time or three. All of the exhaustion of Obama's first year, coupled with the toxicity of wrestling with Summers, may soon send some staff members out the door or into new posts, informed sources report. Summers' legendary self-regard worsened last August, when the president reappointed Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second term. Many Fed-watchers -- Summers chief among them -- thought that Obama might turn to his economic adviser instead of retaining the Republican academic whom President George W. Bush appointed and who presided over the Great Recession.

So peeved was Summers that he buttonholed Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for some personal perks he wanted to add to his position in the West Wing. First, according to informed sources, Summers asked to play golf with the president, which he did four weeks later on September 27. The economic adviser also huffed that he desired Cabinet status, an upgrade that Emanuel granted. Summers got walk-in privileges to Cabinet and other high-level meetings, for example, and he strode among the Cabinet officers who witnessed Obama's State of the Union address. In addition, the former Harvard University president sought a personal car and driver, which happens to be a privilege that the head of the nation's central bank enjoys. The chief of staff initially said yes, only to discover that that perk simply does not exist in the White House.

 

This report originally appeared in Inside Washington, which is available to National Journal subscribers.

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