Back in March when New York’s John Heilemann spoke to people within Obama’s economic team, it seemed that there was some tension between Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and his mentor, economic adviser Larry Summers. Summers, who was reportedly disappointed at being passed over for the role of Treasury secretary, was acting a little bit “I told you so” about the fact that his protégé was having a rough first few months ( “All I can tell you,” one administration official told him of an unpopular aspect of the economic plan, “is that Larry seems quite happy with this part of the policy portfolio being known as the Geithner Plan”) and was throwing temper tantrums that no one knew how to deal with. But now that things are better with the economy, the dynamic duo seems to have settled into a routine. Summers, who will probably be passed over for the Fed chairman role now that everyone is in love with Ben Bernanke, seems happy in his role as Good Old Irascible Larry, and now when he has fits and things, everyone has learned to just ignore him — inspired, perhaps, by Geithner, who treats him patiently, like a parent treats a difficult child.
According to today’s Times:
“I am completely comfortable pushing back at him,” Mr. Geithner said in an interview. “Larry will come to any issue and say, well, here’s all the 16 reasons why there’s problems with that proposal. If he’s got ideas, particularly if I think they won’t work, I say to him, ‘Well, why don’t you make the case against it, Larry, because you’re pretty good at making the case against anything.”
He even uses positive reinforcement, like when he brought Summers a special treat for his birthday.
Just after his 54th birthday on Nov. 30, when the new team was working in Mr. Obama’s transition headquarters in Chicago, Mr. Geithner brought a cupcake and the group sang “Happy Birthday.” As they ended, Mr. Summers rang out, “for he’s an unpleasant fellow,” instead of “for he’s a jolly good fellow.”
Aw. Those Shamu techniques really work!