Obama: Summers Just One of Several Fed Chairman Candidates

The president says Larry Summers and Janet Yellen are two of many potential Fed chairman candidates.

President Barack Obama speaks about the financial crisis as Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, looks on, Jan. 14, 2010, in Washington.

President Barack Obama speaks about the financial crisis as Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, looks on, Jan. 14, 2010, in Washington.

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At a Friday press conference, President Barack Obama fired back at the notion that former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is his top choice to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"I think the perception that Mr. Summers might have an inside track simply had to do with a bunch of attacks that I was hearing on Mr. Summers preemptively," said Obama said.

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The Summers rumors have been circulating since late July, when reports surfaced that top White House officials said Summers was the top candidate. Some Senate Democrats responded by signing a letter that urged the president to appoint Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen, widely considered a frontrunner to head the Fed. Congressional Democrats soon thereafter reported that Obama defended Summers in a private meeting.

President Obama said that defending Summers, who also served as one of Obama's key economic advisors early in his first term, was simply a matter of standing up for a public servant.

"When somebody's worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people ... and I see them getting slapped around in the press for no reason before they've even been nominated for anything, then I want to make sure that somebody's standing up for them," Obama said.

[READ: Obama's Risky Summers Fling]

Obama also stressed that his top criterion in choosing the Federal Reserve chairman is to seek "somebody who understands they've got a dual mandate." The central bank is tasked with both fostering both price stability and full employment, though some conservatives have argued that keeping prices in check should be the sole mandate.

Though chatter has reached a fever pitch, it could still be months before a choice is made. Obama said he will make his nomination for the position in the fall. He also emphasized that his pool of candidates is larger than two people.

"Frankly, I think both Larry Summers and Janet Yellen are highly qualified candidates. There are a couple other candidates who are highly qualified as well," he said.

Yellen would represent more than a change of leadership at the Fed, as she would be the first woman to head the central bank. Though Obama did not mention this fact, it indirectly came up at the conference when he at one point referred to her as "Mr. Yellen" before quickly correcting himself.

 

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