Larry Summers Explains the Auto Bailout With Crazy Vietnam Analogies

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Um, General Motors is not the name of a soldier.Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Today's Wall Street Journal has an excerpt from deal-maker and former car czar Steve Rattner's new book about his stint in the White House. (Most of the newsy details leaked a couple of weeks ago.) Rattner does not directly rag on his former bosses; instead, he showers them with compliments ("valiant," "tough") while letting his anecdotes do the work. (There's a reason he has a reputation for both smugness and savvy.)

Take Larry Summers, Obama's top economic adviser. Rattner talks about his brilliance and how he successfully sanded down the rough edges in his personality that doomed his stint as Harvard's president before painting him as a pointy-headed Walter Sobchak, throwing out 'Nam analogies with abandon:


That still left the question of how far the auto-industry bailout should go. "We're already in Vietnam," Larry Summers said in a separate meeting, referring to the all-but-certain decision to provide more aid to the auto makers. "I can imagine doing something in Cambodia." By that he meant indirectly helping a few key suppliers, the equivalent of fighting from Vietnam and not sending ground troops across the border. But there he drew the line: "There's no way we're going into Laos." He wasn't about to commit the government to a full-scale invasion that involved bailing out the entire supply chain.

The White House Car Czar [WSJ]