Tales from the Trail

Will Obama pick a CEO to replace Summers?

September 28, 2010

Who could possibly replace Larry Summers as director of the White House National Economic Council?

The former Treasury secretary and former Harvard University president offered his own thoughts on that very question at a National Journal forum on the workplace.

It was a valedictory appearance of sorts for Summers. National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein, a longtime political writer, saved the best question for last – Did Summers agree with the view gaining traction in Washington that Obama should name a businessperson to take over his job as director of the NEC when Summers leaves to return to his teaching job at Harvard?

“The president will hire whoever he thinks best,” Summers said.USA-FINANCE/SUMMERS

He disagreed with critics who say the administration does not listen enough to the business community, citing “extensive” White House contacts with executives.

Still, Summers said hiring someone with a business background would help dispel that notion.

“That’s a consideration that is certainly a reasonable one and one that the president will have to weigh,” he said.

“But I think you’ll find this president, as he approaches hiring people, tries to fill his administration with the people who will be most effective in the range of positions and most effective as a team, rather than trying to fill … a variety of different categories that are prescribed from the outside,” he said.

Speculation on a Summers successor has focused on prominent business leaders, including former Xerox Corp. chief executive Anne Mulcahy.

Summers did not discuss any specific candidates for the job. But his general comments on the approach to hiring a new NEC director will carry some weight. White House offiicials have made clear that Summers, who is leaving at the end of the year, will participate in the process of choosing his replacement.

PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/Nicholas Roberts (Larry Summers at Pace University on Oct. 16, 2009)

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