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From the department of "it-can-happen-to-anyone," President Obama's chief economic adviser Larry Summers apparently fell asleep during a high-profile meeting with credit card industry officials in the White House on Thursday. From the pool report comes this nugget:
"One thing to note is that Summers appeared to be nodding off near the beginning of Obama's remarks. And then he DID nod off, doing the head on the hand and then head falling off the hand thing. Photogs seemed to be having a field day. All other officials in the room appeared fully awake."
Among embarrassing snoozes, this one should rank moderately high -- though not quite as bad as Bill Clinton falling asleep during an MLK Day speech last year, nor Ronald Reagan dozing off while meeting with the Pope.
Also, Summers seems to have a mild narcoleptic issue. He fell asleep during a White House economic forum this past February. The New Republic reported recently that "Summers functions on exceedingly little sleep.... To power through the day, Summers relies on a punishing Diet Coke regimen. The combination of fatigue and extreme caffeine intake can produce the occasional verbal and physical tic: Summers is a chronic foot-tapper and sometimes turns over words and clauses like an engine that won't start."
In a prescient piece titled, "Memo To Obama's Economic Team: Get Some Sleep!" Arianna Huffington wrote:
The notion that driving yourself to the point of exhaustion and chronic foot-tapping is a sign of commitment and achievement is as obsolete as the belief that pumping more money into the same institutions that created the crisis will solve it.
Summers' old boss, Bill Clinton, once said, "Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired."
Many Wall Street high-flyers could echo this -- if they had any self-awareness. Instead, they subscribe to our culture's veneration of exhaustion. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi describes how Wall Streeters, when challenged, "talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40."
The country would be better off if Wall Street execs and, more importantly, Summers and Treasury Secretary Geithner -- who, we are admiringly told, works 15 hours a day -- knocked off early and came back to work the next day refreshed... and with some fresh ideas.
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