I have to say: if Barack Obama really does wind up nominating Larry Summers for Fed Chair, it's got to be some sort of record-breaking performance for Worst Use of Trial Balloons.
We've been hearing about the possibility for months. As far as I can tell, the reactions -- I think from both parties and all ideologies, issue positions, and experience with the potential nominees -- fall into basically three baskets:
1. Larry Summers is the World's Greatest Monster. Having him at the Fed would be an abomination (includes subgroup: Bob Rubin is the World's Greatest Monster, and Summers is disqualified by having had anything to do with him).
2. There are a handful of good, qualified, people, of whom Summers is one...but there's no reason at all to select him over Janet Yellen, who overall is the better candidate (plus a small subset of who have a different candidate)
3. Brad DeLong, who thinks that there are a handful of good, qualified, people, and who would give Summers a very small edge over the rest of the field.
OK; maybe I missed someone else in camp 3. And as DeLong points out, those are only the people, mostly outside of the administration, who will speak out publicly. But that's why you do a trial balloon! If you only want to know what your current economic team thinks, you don't need to go public to find out.
In other words, the administration put up a series of trial balloons, which were shot down, blown up, popped, deflated, or whatever else you do to balloons to make them dead, dead, dead, and gone away forever. And yet it appears that they're still going full speed ahead.
Very strange. If you want Summers, regardless of what anyone thinks, why go through all this? Just do a (relatively short, please) rollout. Or, if you do care what people think...listen to them!
Keeping this thing going for weeks and weeks for no good reason just makes it look like the White House doesn't know what it's doing. It's not the end of the world, but it's surely not a plus, either.