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March 27, 2009

Have I Lost My Mind?

Is it really true that the New Republic published a 6,000 word profile of Larry Summers, including these sentences:

At first glance, Summers might appear to have less to contribute on the bank and credit-market front, the most dangerous part of the current situation. His exposure to Wall Street over the years has been limited...

...without mentioning Summers spent several years as a managing director of D.E. Shaw, one of the world's largest hedge funds? I'm seriously asking—I'm tired and might have missed it. And that's such an incredible dereliction of basic journalism that I wouldn't think even the New Republic would be capable of it.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 27, 2009 10:50 PM

Jeez, Jonathan, have you been ignoring the New Republic entirely for a number of years? Because that is the only possible excuse for you to be shocked by this.

Posted by: Rojo at March 27, 2009 11:04 PM

The firm is D.E. Shaw.

The New Republic has always been a wretched organ of right wing nonsense. The safest bet is to expect nothing sensible from it and then you will never be disappointed.

Posted by: Seth at March 27, 2009 11:37 PM

Well, it is from the April 1 edition.

Posted by: Sven at March 28, 2009 12:05 AM

the... 6000... most... distgusting....
words... and oh god that picture.... I'm sorry I can't read it.. oh I'm gonna be sick

Posted by: tim at March 28, 2009 01:37 AM

"organ of right wing nonsense"

That's unfair to the right wing. They hate TNR too, that's how TNR's staff can sleep at night. "Everybody hates us, so we must be doing something right."

Posted by: buermann at March 28, 2009 03:32 AM

That's unfair to the right wing. They hate TNR too

Not really; TNR is a very useful idiot for the right whenever it comes time to launch some monstrous right-wing atrocity, or to torpedo a decent leftish reform. "Even the liberal New Republic says..."

That said, their environmental blog is unusually good - "unusual" in the sense that a couple years ago this is the sort of thing they'd give to Gregg Easterbrook to use as a platform for warmed-over climate change denialism.

Posted by: strasmangelo jones at March 28, 2009 10:31 AM

It's always interesting to see what is and what isn't included in someone's resume when being presented to America. It's like Peter Dale Scott's "negative template" in that what's left out is the most important thing for people to know.

(Scott's "negative template" regards when a government commission avoids something in an investigation it's usually because it's the most important thing to be hidden.)

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at March 28, 2009 11:15 AM

larry summers is exposed to wall street and assorted financial shenanigans as a part of the sun's surface is exposed to sunlight.

Posted by: almostinfamous at March 28, 2009 12:44 PM

While the content might suck, it is interesting that everything in America eventually begins to seem like Gaddis' parody of America in J.R. J.R. is the true American Apocalypse, I think. Gaddis, up there in heaven, would have to smile about how Summers became a "top flight" debater - he loved how that cliche comes out of the businessman/p.r. flak mouth. The pride in the regime of soft drinks. And the meritocratic porn - oh, the debate team! It was not top flight - but goddamn it, by dint of sleepless nights our hero made it to the top of the heap! Because you gotta know more than the other guy, see.

The best Gaddis like graf is this one:

"In one semi-famous episode, Summers and a partner appeared in the final round of a tournament at the University of Redlands. As usual at this stage of a competition, Summers was overmatched speed-wise--the opposing team had put forth several arguments in support of a plan to feed the starving masses. "Larry obviously saw that, if the round was judged conventionally, it would have been a wholesale slaughter," recalls Greg Rosenbaum, a friend who was in attendance. So, rather than rebut each argument, Summers simply ignored them. Instead, he alleged that they all relied on a key misinterpretation of an academic article, thereby collapsing the debate to a single question. Summers was, in effect, challenging the entire case against world hunger on a technicality. Amazingly, it half-worked. "The judges came to the conclusion that Larry was right, there was only one argument," recalls Rosenbaum. "They just happened to conclude he lost that one."

Or as a Gaddis character might have put it, "speed-wise, it can't hurt us humanity-wise."

Semi-famous. Semi-famous...
These people. Where did they come from? How can we get rid of them?

Posted by: roger at March 28, 2009 12:52 PM

These are the institutions people want to save by injecting more taxes? No thanks. But journalism in America is dead and it deserves the current state it's in. This is just one gross example of it.

Posted by: SMDQR at March 28, 2009 01:24 PM

Why, sounds like a garden variety case of rationalism run amok. You can't get rid of it, it's an integral part of the universe. It's just that it has to be recognized as a form of extremism.

Posted by: abb1 at March 28, 2009 01:34 PM

I sure had a laugh when I saw the cover line on that issue: "Springtime for Summers."

I mean, it's one thing to bring up Hitler in an argument but to make people think of Hitler before the argument's even begun when you're arguing for the guy in a Marty Peretz organ? That's some classic TNR editorial panache, there.

Posted by: darrelplant at March 28, 2009 01:49 PM

"Even the liberal New Republic says" is something you hear from NPR and NYT reporters. The New Republicans are equal opportunity useful idiots.

Posted by: buermann at March 28, 2009 03:06 PM

@buermann: At NPR and the Times they drop 'even'.

The 'limited exposure' is a nice phrase: technically true (just the last two years out of the last thirty!). The very fact that it was the last two years, though, is what makes the half-truth such a chutzpahtic move: the very epic peak of the hedge fund derivative swindling.

Speaking of which, the single clearest narrative of the recent collapse and the buildup to it is by former Morgan Stanley derivatives trader Larry Partnoy in the Afterword to his recently republhed FIASCO, written in 1997 as a warning about the dangers derivatives posed to the global financial system. (Like Sen. Dorgan's book three years earlier, only with lots of lurid insider stories, sex and drugs...).

Posted by: Nell at March 28, 2009 05:19 PM