Bloomberg News

Bill Clinton Backs Yellen for Fed While Defending Summers’s Past

September 22, 2013

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen has been "right on everything that’s happened in this whole aftermath of the financial crisis." Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Former President Bill Clinton said Janet Yellen would be “great” as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve and defended Larry Summers, who withdrew his name from consideration amid lawmaker opposition.

“I also consider Janet Yellen a friend and I think she has shown good judgment,” Clinton said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program. “She’s been right on everything that’s happened in this whole aftermath of the financial crisis. So if she gets the job, I’ll be thrilled, too.”

The likelihood of Yellen, 67, replacing Ben S. Bernanke as Fed chief has increased as White House officials began gauging lawmakers’ support and she won the backing of a top Senate Democrat. She currently is vice chairman of the Fed, where Clinton said she’s “done a fabulous job.”

Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat and a senior member of the Banking Committee, said Sept. 18 that Yellen would be an “excellent choice” to succeed Bernanke when his term expires on Jan. 31.

Clinton defended Summers, who served under his administration as Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001. Summers withdrew his name from consideration as Fed chairman following opposition from some Democrats, women’s groups and other advocacy organizations against his potential nomination.

“I think there’s this kind of cartoon image that’s been developed that somehow Larry Summers was a one-note Johnny, just trying to let big financial titans ravage the land,” Clinton said. “It’s just ludicrous.”

Summers served as director of the National Economic Council for President Barack Obama from January 2009 until November 2010.

“He played a central role in helping President Obama use the power of the government to try to bring the economy back when we were on the brink of just sliding into depression when he took office,” Clinton said.

Syrian Chemical Weapons

Clinton said he supports President Barack Obama’s decision to try to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to rid his country of chemical weapons, and that removing Assad from power is “a separate issue.”

“There is inherent and enduring benefit in taking a step that has the potential to rid the world of these chemical weapons, because it’s going to be difficult for anybody else to use them if this happens,” he said. “It’s worth doing.”

Clinton also backs Obama on arming the Syrian rebels, even if it means some weapons might fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants.

“As cruel as that sounds, that’s the only shot we’ve got for a negotiated settlement, trying to make sure that we balance up the forces a little bit,” he said.

Other Clintons

Clinton said he didn’t know if his wife and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016.

“I think she would be the first to tell you that there is no such thing as a done deal, ever, by anybody,” Clinton said. “I don’t know what she’s going to do.”

Clinton also said he wouldn’t discourage his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, from seeking political office, even though it can be personally grueling.

“I would not ever advise her not to do it if she wanted to,” Clinton said. “Look politics is like pro football, it’s a contact sport. If you don’t want to get hit, you should stay on the sidelines.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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