Waiting for the DeLong-Fish Cage Match

While I’m trying to decide whether unmanaged funds are preferrable to mismanaged ones, and wondering whether any discussion of Mark Cuban (I like the picture better than CNN’s) belong here,* the NYT decides to continue its determined destruction of its reputation.

Stanley Fish manages to forget—or, more accurately, ignore, since he mentions it in the first paragraph and then never again—that judging Larry Summers’s ability to be Secretary of the Treasury might be easier by looking at how he did as, say, Secretary of the Treasury, instead of just sliming his time at Harvard,** and then producing this penultimate paragraph:

What has all this to do with Larry Summers as a potential Secretary of the Treasury in the Obama administration? It depends on how much of the job involves what are usually called “people skills,” the skills that bring men and women of diverse views together in a spirit of optimism and co-operation (two words Obama has often invoked). A cabinet secretary must interact with other secretaries, with the White House staff, with the vice president, with congressional committees, with leaders of industry, with the representatives of other sovereign states and with the media.

Gosh. You think maybe Summers can do that?

*Probably not for the specific issue.

**To be clear, since there was some confusion the last time I spoke nicely about Summers, he wouldn’t be my choice for Treasury Secretary. But Jamie Galbraith, while a wonderful person with a good heart, doesn’t seem (from the two times I was in the same space as he at the AEA last year) to be an improvement in the people skills department, and a certain NYT columnist already dislikes him.

Peter Orszag should be a contender, but doesn’t get named so it’s reasonable to assume he’s happy where he is.

Fish’s piece, however, is the People magazine version of Summers’s tenure at Harvard, both in that it obsesses on “personality conflicts” and doesn’t deal with any of the substantive reasons, if any (op cit. David Warsh), for Summers’s dismissal from Harvard.

But, unless you’re going to argue that, because they are later, his five years at Harvard are more related to Treasury than his time at Treasury (which ended when Clinton did) you’re only going to either create sympathy for the man you’re trying to demonize or make yourself look stupid. Whether these are mutually exclusive is left as an exercise to the reader.