The departure of the 55-year-old former president of Harvard University is hardly a shock. Summers' temper is legendary and he lacks the telegenic charm of Austan Goolsbee, who recently replaced Christina Romer as the chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.
Summers has also been a vocal proponent of the president's economic agenda. Though many mainstream economists agree with Summers, Republicans do not -- and they stand a good chance of winning control of one or both Houses of Congress. Summers also refused to speak in sound bites. Here is how Summers described his philosophy about government service earlier this summer:
"People asked me when I first made plans to go to Washington and advise President Obama on his economic strategy, 'How do you define success?'" said Summers. "I was never quite sure how to answer that question, then one day a kind of answer struck me. I remembered back to my twin daughters' study of Advanced Placement American History. . . . What I was struck by as an economist was that all kinds of events that seemed important to me -- the 1987 stock market crash, the 1982 recession, the inflation of the 1970s -- were barely mentioned in their course. In contrast, the course seemed to go on and on and on about the Depression of the 1930s.
"I vowed that the first definition for success for us would be this: Let's make sure that this economic crisis is not studied by students of history 25 years from now or 50 years from now."
Unfortunately, Summers has not achieved his goal. Obama is hinting that more members of the economic team may also leave. Among the other hits it has already taken: Peter Orzag left in July as head of the Office of Management and Budget.