Obama's Full Take On Messrs. Summers And Yellen
While Janet Yellen's chances of becoming the next head of the Fed are plunging, those of Larry Summers are soaring, and it may be all due to a simple Freudian slip by the president. For those who missed, below is the full transcript of Obama's Friday's Q&A on the topic of who will succeed Ben Bernanke. Perhaps the most notable component: the president's pre-slipped reference to Janet Yellen's gender. Because if "he" occupies so little of Obama's attention, then what really are "his" chances of becoming the most important woman in the history of the world?
From Obama's Friday press conference in which, among other things, he said that NSA transparency was coming all along, even without Edward Snowden.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about this debate that's playing itself out in editorial pages, in the blogosphere, even in the Senate Democratic caucus, about the choice you eventually will make for the next Federal Reserve chairman. There is a perception among Democrats that Larry Summers has the inside track, and perhaps you've made some assurances to him about that. Janet Yellen is the vice chair of the Federal Reserve. There are many women in the Senate who are Democrats who believe that breaking the glass ceiling there would be historic and important.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate? Do you find it any way unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the most important — if not the most important — economic decisions you'll make in the remainder of your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: It is definitely one of the most important economic decisions that I'll make in the remainder of my presidency. The Federal Reserve chairman is not just one of the most important economic policymakers in America, he or she is one of the most important policymakers in the world. And that person presumably will stay on after I'm President. So this, along with Supreme Court appointments, is probably as important a decision as I make as President.
I have a range of outstanding candidates. You've mentioned two of them — Mr. Summers and Mr. Yellen — Ms. Yellen. And they're both terrific people.
I think the perception that Mr. Summers might have an inside track simply had to do with a bunch of attacks that I was hearing on Mr. Summers preemptively, which is sort of a standard Washington exercise, that I don't like. Because when somebody has worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people, and I know the quality of those people, and I see them getting slapped around in the press for no reason — before they've even been nominated for anything — then I want to make sure that somebody is standing up for them. I felt the same way when people were attacking Susan Rice before she was nominated for anything. So I tend to defend folks who I think have done a good job and don't deserve attacks.
But I consider them both outstanding candidates. My main criteria — I've stated this before, but I want to repeat it — my main criteria for the Fed Reserve chairman is somebody who understands they've got a dual mandate. A critical part of the job is making sure that we keep inflation in check, that our monetary policy is sound, that the dollar is sound. Those are all critical components of the job. And we've seen what happens when the Fed is not paying attention. We saw, prior to Paul Volcker coming into place, inflation shooting up in ways that really damaged the real economy.
But the other mandate is full employment. And right now, if you look at the biggest challenges we have, the challenge is not inflation; the challenge is we've still got too many people out of work, too many long-term unemployed, too much slack in the economy, and we're not growing as fast as we should. And so I want a Fed chairman who's able to look at those issues and have a perspective that keeps an eye on inflation, makes sure that we're not seeing artificial bubbles in place, but also recognizing, you know what, a big part of my job right now is to make sure the economy is growing quickly and robustly, and is sustained and durable, so that people who work hard in this country are able to find a job.
And, frankly, I think both Larry Summers and Janet Yellen are highly qualified candidates. There are a couple of other candidates who are highly qualified as well. I'll make the decision in the fall.
Q Can you see how the perception of you defending Larry Summers as vigorously as you just did and in other quarters lead some to believe you've already made up your mind?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, except I just told you I haven't. Major, I'd defend you if somebody was saying something that wasn't true about you. (Laughter.) I really would. In fact, I've done that in the White House some times. (Laughter.)
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