"I wouldn't want Larry Summers to mow my yard."
That little gem was uttered Monday by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan) in what has to be a fight the White House really doesn't want to have right now. They've got two very strong candidates in Summers and Janet Yellen, and beyond pointing out that any chance to break a glass ceiling with a highly qualified woman should not be taken lightly, I've not weighed in much.
It's inevitable that this would become a horse race, and while I haven't been around for that many Fed chair appointments, I don't remember anything like the frenzy around this choice.
For reasons I can't readily identify, I find it distasteful and off-putting. Perhaps it's that when Senate Republicans blocked Peter Diamond from becoming a Fed governor -- he's a Nobel laureate economist with a deep understanding of the role of the Fed in labor and capital markets -- my level of disgust blew a gasket. Or maybe it's that trying to discern the differences between the two frontrunners has led to far too much speculation based on far too little real information.
Sen. Roberts comment, however, has raised the bar and I must join the debate.
I would not want Summers to mow my yard either. When I picture myself sitting in my home office, which overlooks the yard, seeing Larry out there mowing the lawn would be distracting and unsettling. My neighbors would also find it odd, wondering why a renowned economist was doing my yard work as opposed to me or one of my kids. And really, what explanation could I give them that would suffice?
To be fair, one must also ask of oneself: how would I feel about Janet Yellen mowing my yard? This too would feel odd and inappropriate. At least I know Larry pretty well, and perhaps we could have a good laugh about it. But if I looked up from my work and saw Yellen mowing away out there, I'm not sure I'd know what to do or what to say to her.
I'll let the rest of the punditry argue about who would do a better job, considering some of the trimming by the sidewalk and other challenges unique to my lawn. Me, I'm with the Senator: I don't really want to see either of them mowing my yard.
This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.