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Ben Bernanke’s second act
Obama’s renomination of the Federal Reserve chairman isn’t too surprising, but the timing is
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o much for President Obama not making news from Martha’s Vineyard, said Theo Francis in BusinessWeek. Obama is taking a break from his vacation to nominate Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term, and while the timing is unexpected, the news iteself “isn’t entirely surprising.” Obama “has been consistent in his praise” for Bernanke, and Bernanke has hit the road to plead his own case.

He hasn’t convinced me, said Dean Baker in Britain’s The Guardian. Yes, Bernanke moved “very effectively” to “prevent the collapse of the financial system,” but he’s “waist deep in responsibility” for allowing the underlying mess. Bernanke, second only to predecessor Alan Greenspan, could have prevented the housing bubble at the root of this crisis—since he didn’t, he should join the “tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs” in it.

“Bernanke has his detractors” on other fronts, too, said Michael Kitchen in MarketWatch. But “whatever controversy” his reappointment brings, “it will be nothing compared to firestorm that would have resulted if Obama passed him over,” especially for rumored runner-up, Larry Summers. That would have “freaked out the markets for days, if not weeks.”

Ben Bernanke is the “safe” choice, but why reappoint him now for a term that starts Feb. 1? said Patricia Zengerle and Caren Bohan in Reuters. Perhaps Obama is looking for a “temporary reprieve” from the recent “onslaught of public criticism” over everything from health care reform to deficits. Or maybe he’s just trying to keep the jittery markets calm, to help the nascent economic recovery.

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