A former chief economic policy adviser to President Obama is the latest to weigh in on NSA spying and the person who brought it to light — former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Larry Summers, a one-time head of the National Economic Council and a past president of Harvard University, spoke with Jorge Ramos this Thursday on “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos.”
JR: Talking about speaking up, do you think Edward Snowden really spoke up? That he’s not a traitor, that he’s just a whistle blower?
LS: No, he is a traitor. I think that when you take on a commitment, you don’t have to take on that commitment, but he did take on a commitment to keep secrets, to not disclose information.
JR: Well, are we better off knowing that?
LS: He broke that commitment and I think that society has to reply on people keeping their commitments and people who break laws, there may be occasions — that’s what civil disobedience is all about — there may be occasions when people decide that the right, moral thing to do is to break the law, but part of that decision has to be accepting the consequences that go with their actions. There are issues, obviously, that have to be debated.
Snowden published a “manifesto” in a German news magazine on Sunday insisting that he wasn’t a traitor.
“Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public,” Snowden wrote. “Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime.”
Current and former government officials have lined up to denounce Snowden. Recently former Vice President Dick Cheney and an ex-CIA chief have labeled the former NSA contractor a “traitor.”
Summers also spoke with Ramos about another controversy of the moment, Obamacare. Ramos asked Summers how the website could fail in a country that is home to tech successes like Apple, Google and Amazon.
Summers said that the heathcare website’s glitches are the result of a government brain drain.
“Now I think one of the things the opposition has to recognize is that they have made it almost impossible for many well-intentioned people to go into government,” Summers said.
Why is that?
“The fact that it takes so long to be confirmed by the Senate, the fact that you have to go through the financial equivalent of a colonoscopy to enter government…The fact that there are so many rules and restrictions and bits of hostility towards those who are in government.”
Summers can speak to that personally. Earlier this year, he withdrew his candidacy for chairmanship of the Federal Reserve when it became clear that he would have a hard time winning over enough senators to earn an appointment.
Ramos also spoke to Summers about attitudes of young people toward public service.
Summers said that education is a form of public service. He spoke about his daughter, who he said is working in a school “with very tough kids.”
“You know, it is much easier to complain about things than it is to fix them,” Summers said. “It’s much easier to sit in the stands and talk about what the people in the arena are doing than it is to enter the arena themselves.”