Bernanke saying he’s dispensable suggests tenure winds down

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he’s “spoken to the president a bit” about his future and that he feels no personal responsibility to stay at the helm until the Fed winds down its unprecedented policies to stimulate the economy.

“I don’t think that I’m the only person in the world who can manage the exit,” Bernanke said when asked at a news conference in Washington if he’s discussed his plans with President Barack Obama. His term expires at the end of January.

Bernanke’s comments yesterday meshed with the views of some of Obama’s economic and political advisers who said Bernanke, 59, after spending most of his seven years on the job battling a financial crisis and its aftermath, is exhausted and wants to return to private life. The current and former administration officials asked to not be identified to describe the private conversations.

Michelle Smith, a Fed spokeswoman, declined to comment. Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday’s remarks were a departure from Bernanke’s previous statements that he hasn’t discussed his plans with Obama or White House officials.

On Dec. 12, during his last news conference, Bernanke said that he hadn’t “had any conversations” with the president or anyone on his team about his potential departure.

Earlier Statement

“I think the president has got quite a few issues he needs to be thinking about, from the fiscal cliff to many other appointments and so on,” he said then, when asked if he would serve a third term.

Since his December remarks, Bernanke has had several meetings with Timothy F. Geithner, when he was still Treasury secretary, including one with the president. Geithner left that meeting early, giving Obama and the Federal Reserve chairman some private time, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

Yesterday, Bernanke said, “I’ve spoken to the president a bit, but I really don’t have any, I don’t really have any information for you at this juncture.”

Bernanke, a former Princeton University professor, also said he didn’t feel personally responsible to lead the Fed when it unwinds its balance sheet.

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