Mediator Summers?

Yesterday the New York Times reported that Christine Varney, the new antitrust chief at Justice, was running into resistance as she attempted to do her job (frowned upon in the halls of power).

The most significant dispute appears to have occurred between her and the Transportation Department, which approved an “antitrust immunity request” against Varney’s recommendations. The article noted that Transportation “endorsed a policy popular during the Bush administration that favored such industry agreements out of a desire for efficiency.”

How did they attempt to resolve this dispute? Naturally, they called in a mediator with a record of aggressively steamrolling opposition and blundering his way through all matters interpersonal:

The disagreement became so heated that the president’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, was called in to mediate.

Administration officials said that Mr. Summers did not take sides in the dispute but urged the two agencies to reach an agreement as they sought to balance the interests of the industry against those of consumers.

Summers has built a career out of intellectually dishonest, crisply articulated endorsements of industry-favored policy, so I have a guess as to who called him in to “mediate” this dispute, and where he effectively came down.

It’s hard to say from this article. Apparently the reporter isn’t similarly skeptical of the idea that Summers can mediate conflicts, or he wouldn’t have let phrases like “was called in” slip by in the passive tense.

Instead of getting the real story, we’re left with a picture of Summers as neutral and above-the-fray, when he is, in fact, 70-80% elbows, with no spine to match. What’s really going on here?