Larry Summers: Obamacare Glitches Won’t Help Us “Renew Confidence in the Public Sector”

Not confident himself.

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

I’m spending much of the day at the Center for American Progress’s 10th-anniversary conference, a wonky-as-all-hell celebration of the think tank that began when Clintonite exiles decided to create an answer to the Heritage Foundation, AEI, etc. My colleague Emma Roller is simultaneously tracking the House’s hearing on the problems of healthcare.gov. The split-screen is sort of dazzling: As progressives celebrate 10 years of policy success, their comrades literally a few blocks away are scrambling to explain why the exchanges’ website doesn’t work.

This is causing some agita. CAP President Neera Tanden made a small joke about the problems as the conference opened. Larry Summers, fresh off his exit from the Fed chairman campaign, spoke over Tanden as his panel ended to say “we can’t think of things like that as glitches if we want to renew confidence in the public sector.”

But—when a reporter followed Summers after the speech, the former Treasury secretary shook him off. The conversations I’ve had with progressives about Obamacare glitches have all been conducted in a sort of is-anyone-behind-me sotto voce way. One labor strategist told me that the president needed to keep changing the subject, to pick a fight on a new topic, like immigration. Indeed, moments later, the president was doing just that. Not that Republicans were bamboozled.