Larry Summers: Republican critique of unemployment rate 'ridiculous'

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"The president actually within his first month of office passed the Recovery Act, which was unprecedented as a measure to create jobs," Summers said. "Whether it was investing in infrastructure, whether it was preserving jobs for cops and teachers, whether it was putting money in the hands of middle-class taxpayers, the president's had that focus ever since."

The former Harvard president also disputed accounts of the deliberations surrounding the auto bailout, saying at no time did advisers recommend against the entirety of the package. Rather, Summers said, there was disagreement over whether to aid Chrysler specifically.

"The president made a judgment that those who wanted to let Chrysler go were wrong," Summers said. "He made that judgment because he — against the advice of many of his political advisers — because he believed that the risks to the economy of adding another blow at that moment were just too great. That was the right decision, as we've seen. With a different president, it could easily have gone a different way."

The auto bailout has become a crucial focus in Ohio and Michigan, with the president and Mitt Romney trading sharp barbs on the bailout. Obama has repeatedly referenced an op-ed Romney wrote in The New York Times in which the Republican presidential nominee urged the government to "let Detroit go bankrupt," while Romney has maintained that the president essentially followed his plan for the auto industry.