Larry Summers's Perspective
By David Henderson
In a post yesterday, Tyler Cowen writes, “Here is perspective from Larry Summers.” Not here is a perspective from Larry Summers. Not here is Larry Summers’s perspective. The implication is that Larry Summers has a good perspective. The issue? Trump.
So let’s consider Larry’s perspective.
I’ll lead by saying that there is much about Trump to criticize. Larry nails much of it. There is much I agree with. But he also repeats a falsehood. And falsehoods don’t become true with repetition. He writes:
He [Trump] has invoked standard anti-Semitic tropes in his political advertising.
The only other commentary I will make is to note the points in the video where Trump identifies enemies, in order to get people to vote for him. I will identify people according to their official demographics, for a purpose that will be clear at the bottom.
0:05 Hillary Clinton (white Christian woman)
0:21 George Soros (Jewish man)
0:22 Janet Yellen (Jewish woman)
0:24 A whole group [20+ people] of financial ministers and central bankers, with all kinds of colors, men and women.
0:33 Obama walking with Prime Minister Abe (I think?) (black Christian man, Japanese man)
0:36 Bill Clinton (white Christian man)
0:44 Hillary Clinton shaking hands with Tony Blair (I think?) (white Christian woman, white Christian man)
0:48 Bill and Hillary Clinton representing “the political establishment” (white Christian man and woman)
0:59 – 1:04 More coverage of “global power structure” with 10+ foreign elites, both sexes and many colors
1:14 Lloyd Blankfein walking to podium at Clinton Global Initiative (Jewish man)
1:15 – 2:00 Video doesn’t show any more enemies, but instead shows the average Americans who will save the day.
My friend David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, and not someone who is oblivious to anti-Semitism, writes an even better analysis of the ad, in, as it happens, the Washington Post. The whole thing is worth reading. Here’s a slice:
First, and in contrast to almost every article I’ve read about the ad, suggesting that Jews were somehow featured, the Jews in the ad only appear for a total of about four seconds in a two-minute ad. Second, only Yellen and Soros are identified by name. I doubt 1 in 20 voters even knows who Yellen is, much less her ethnic background. Moreover, neither has a recognizably Jewish name — if you were going for the anti-Semitic vote, why not use Clinton supporters far more well-known and identifiably Jewish, such as Steven Spielberg, Joe Lieberman, or even Sarah Silverman? I didn’t know Yellen is Jewish. Third, Lloyd Blankfein is pictured, but not identified by name. How many voters would recognize Blankfein? I didn’t. And how many of those know he’s Jewish? Again, I didn’t.
Even more puzzling, why would you attack Jewish bankers to appeal to the best-informed segment of white supremacist extremists the same weekend you float the name of a Jewish banker, Steven Mnuchin, formerly of Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs, as a possible Treasury secretary? Are the white supremacists supposed to be smart enough recognize Blankfein as a Jew, but not smart enough to know Mnuchin is a Jewish name, or to Google him?
There’s so much to criticize about Trump and, in the next few weeks, I’ll be doing so. I’ve held off since his election because I’ve wanted to see his picks for various Cabinet positions. It’s becoming clear that some are as bad as I feared.
But that makes it all the more important not to make phony accusations.
It really shouldn’t surprise us much, though, that Larry comes at this the way he does. He’s an insider. And, if Elizabeth Warren is to be believed, here’s a telling recounting by her of a conversation she had with Larry early in her time in Washington:
After dinner, “Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” Ms. Warren writes. “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.
Someone who won’t criticize other insiders is also someone who is unlikely to be fair in his criticism of outsiders or of competing insiders in the other camp.