By: John Zogby Forbes.com Contributor
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Leading federal officials were supposed to be chosen on merit, not on ideological purity or whether or not they were acceptable to special interests. Perhaps the Father of All the Founding Fathers, James Madison, hated special interests. In Federalist Papers #10, which he co-authored, he warned of the power of "factions" and how they could eventually undermine the national interest. For pretty much the same reason, he also hated political parties. The United States of America was an experiment and much too fragile to be in the throes of groups that cared less for the national community and its values.
We are still an experiment - over two centuries old and going strong but still facing daunting threats from within. America's two political parties are less big tents that encompass broad coalitions of diverse interests and more (more and more) floating coalitions of the loudest, darkest, most selfish and narrow-minded voices in the nation. And they speak only to the loudest, darkest, most selfish and narrow-minded constituents in the nation. On a good night, Bill O'Reilly is not watched by 308 million Americans and MSNBC is ignored by 310.5 million.
This is not to say that Larry Summers, who just withdrew his name from consideration for the position of chair of the Federal Reserve, deserved the post or not. It is to say (a whole lot) that his candidacy was never properly vetted by Congress, which has the constitutional authority to do so. Rather, his name was floated, the shouting began, and he withdrew.
This time it was the most liberal voices in the nation's capital. We know the process well: shout, leak, whine, cry, pound on the table, raise a stink. Forget about hearings and forget about resumes.
To be sure, the potential nomination of Summers was going to be controversial. As President of Harvard, he said some stupid things about the acumen of women in dealing with mathematics . He has been a Democratic who has not eschewed deregulation, a real problem for liberals. I had one interaction with him a few years back when I was delivering a presentation at the Belfer Center at Harvard on public opinion in the Middle East. Mr. Summers walked into the room in the middle of my presentation and just started talking… and talking. His comments were irrelevant and his manner crude and rude - but he was the president and he got a pass. But I digress because that had nothing to do with his capacity to lead or not lead the Federal Reserve, nothing to do with his resume or his history of public service.
Once again Americans are denied a proper hearing, a gentlemen's and ladies' process of collecting evidence from both sides, vetting the information collected, holding a debate, then voting.
You know the Founding Fathers themselves represented a multiplicity of interests. They argued, threatened to walk out, some of them actually did. But the overwhelming number who stayed eventually compromised - in the national interest. Some of those compromises were less than pretty, but they were eventually modified and eliminated - in the best tradition of maintaining American values and in the national interest.
Regardless of the merits of appointing Larry Summers to chair Fed, Americans have been denied a process that they deserve.