The selection process and the politics of adjectives

The coming weeks will see much media focus on possible candidates, from the toxic Larry Summers to the ever-present Trevor Manuel. But already comments from senior figures in governments are illustrating that it is the process of selection that really counts.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner said yesterday that:

It is very important that we continue to have strong, effective leadership of this important institution, and in the coming weeks, we plan to put forward a candidate with the experience and requisite qualities to take this institution forward

Choosing his words carefully he said that the US wanted the Bank board to follow an “open and expeditious” process. Note there was no mention of a “transparent”, “merit-based” or “fair” process. It’s in these moments that the choice of adjective becomes a political act, with serious implications. Continue reading

Larry Summers? You have to be joking.

Although a certain former first lady has been constantly mooted as Zoellick’s successor it seems that Obama may be also considering another candidate. Larry Summers is former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, and head of the National Economics Council under Obama, and is currently a professor at Harvard. He is also rather notorious for his part in the deregulation of the finance sector, brazen comments on the ‘scientific aptitude’ of women, and for advocating increased pollution in developing countries as a cost-cutting exercise.

Needless to say he is what is politely called a ‘divisive’ figure. After a brief period in which commentators seemed to be momentarily stupefied by the news, Summer’s candidacy has now provoked a rapid, and incredulous, response from the political blogosphere.

Felix Salmon at Reuters pleads:

Please, Barack, don’t do it! … giving him the World Bank job would be a disaster.

Before adding that:

giving the job to any American is a bad idea. We’re long past the point at which it makes any sense at all that the president of the World Bank should always be an American.

David Dayen at popular blog Fire Dog Lake likens Summers to a zombie, and seconds Salmon’s view that he should not be appointed to the role:

You just can’t get rid of zombie Larry Summers. He can get drummed out of Harvard. He can see the deregulation policies he pushed in the Clinton Administration lead to a financial meltdown. He can preside over a sluggish economy for two years during the Obama Administration, after which Congress flips to the opposition. And he just keeps falling upwards

Over at the Huffington Post Jason Linkins asks whether ‘Surely President Obama Is Joking About This ‘Have Larry Summers Run The World Bank’ Thing!’. His view is no less damning:

At any rate, it seems pretty clear that his prickliness, his record of being a source of dysfunction, and that teensy little thing where the policies he supported helped wreck the economy would all disqualify Summers

Any thoughts on Summers dear readers?