Summers is absolutely wrong about credit derivatives not existing in the late 1990s. He was Treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001; Euromoney magazine had splashed the words “Credit Derivatives” all over its front cover in March 1996. And Brooksley Born, between 1996 and 1999, was literally losing sleep over those things as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Summers’s response to Born? To make sure she was marginalized, and, eventually, pushed out of her job entirely.
And of course it’s a bit rich for Summers to criticize Krishnan for asking uninformed questions (they’re not uninformed at all, actually), when he has steadfastly refused to answer informed questions from the likes of Charles Ferguson.
Eventually, Krishnan attempts another tack. “It’s not to put all the blame on you,” he says. “But you started on a trajectory that was then continued by the Bush Administration.” The reply is a classic:
“No, no, no, no. That is just not credibly correct.”
Krishnan then brings up Inside Job and the issue of the revolving door, which of course Summers took full advantage of with his $5-million-a-year job working one day a week for DE Shaw.
“Inside Job had essentially all its facts wrong,” replies Summers, unbelievably, resorting to an argument based on timing: because he didn’t work in financial services before he was Treasury secretary, and because he waited a few years before taking that job at DE Shaw, Summers says it’s “absurd” to blame the revolving door for any of his actions.
It’s weird that Summers, who loves debate, generally refuses to sit down in some public forum and answer serious, informed questions about the legacy of his tenure at Treasury; it might well be that this single interview is the closest we’ll ever get. And on the basis of this interview, it’s clear that, far from apologizing for his actions, Summers is going Full Bluster, denying any culpability, and choosing instead to violently reject and belittle any suggestion that he holds any responsibility for the crisis at all.