Friend, mentor, and all-around good guy John Judis emails with a comment on my Larry Summers item--in particular, my worry that appointing a former CEO to succeed Summers would push internal policy debates to the right:
I think you pose the problem too narrowly. Obama doesn't need to please the left, he needs to assure the middle of the electorate that he is not a toady of the people who wrecked the economy. That's a political, not really a substantive problem. (See William Galston's piece yesterday.) And it's a problem Obama doesn't really seem to get. Appointing a CEO would reinforce the impression that he is in business's pocket.
Back in the health care debate, we saw the same problem: Obama didn't need to do the public option. (I was at least half persuaded by the arguments that it might not work that well). But he had to do something to convince the public that the program wasn't a sop to the insurance and drug industries.
Some left-right debates about policy intersect here. To do something on both these counts, Obama would have had to do something that was to the "left" of what he ended up doing. But Obama's political problem had more to do with the populist divide, which is different from the left-right divide.
I agree with John, although it raises an interesting question. It's clear to me that Americans have very negative feelings toward Wall Street. It's less clear to me that Americans have such negative feelings toward the business community as a whole.
It's possible that most Americans--or, at least, a politically critical group of independent voters--are apt to interpret the hostility of business leaders as a sign that Obama is not doing what it takes to help the economy. That would help explain why the White House is so sensitive to the argument it's excessively harsh toward the business community, even though I find that argument both laughable and dangerous.
Like I said, it's an interesting question. I honestly don't know the answer. Anybody who does should feel free to chime in.