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President Shocked To Discover Leading Party Coalition Requires Leading Party Coalition

[ 141 ] August 14, 2013 |

Apparently the waaaaahambulance has been called to 1600 Pennsyylvania Avenue:

Surprised and irritated to see Senate Democrats touting a preferred candidate for Federal Reserve chairman, White House officials have moved behind the scenes to quash the campaign and are insisting President Barack Obama not be pressured as he mulls whom to nominate, people familiar with the effort say.

Seriously? Look, the thing about presidenting is that you lead a party coalition. The Senate caucus has substantive and political interests. To be “irritated” by this really doesn’t make any sense. It’s the president’s prerogative to make the selection, and it’s the prerogative of his caucus to make their preferences known. One suspects that the annoyance is based partly on the fact that the people firing at the Summers trial balloon are clearly right on the merits. Yellen is more qualified for this job. Breaking glass ceilings is an important consideration. Letting pre-existing personal relationships excessively influence the choice for Fed Chair (as opposed to a political adviser) is inappropriate.

The story also makes clear that Summers will be confirmed if he’s nominated, which isn’t a surprise. But it would be a terrible fight to pick for multiple reasons.

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  1. Did you consider the possibility that the choice of words by the Wall Street Journal, let alone their story, might not be completely accurate?

    • Another Anonymous says:

      Yeah, exactly. Leaving aside the he said that she said that he said quality of such stories.

    • shah8 says:

      Add me to the folks confused by something thinking the wsj is a credible source. This is exactly the sort of inside baseball the wsj lies on, outside of the editorial pages.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      1)It’s not the op-ed page.

      2)This isn’t the only evidence that Obama is annoyed that people are criticizing Summers.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Are you saying that the unimpeachable source known as “unnamed White House aids” becomes less reliable when reported by the Wall Street Journal?

      • rea says:

        It isn’t “unnamed White House aids,” or even “unnamed White House aides.”

        Surprised and irritated to see Senate Democrats touting a preferred candidate for Federal Reserve chairman, White House officials have moved behind the scenes to quash the campaign and are insisting President Barack Obama not be pressured as he mulls whom to nominate, people familiar with the effort say.

        Unnamed “people familiar with the effort.”

        Frankly, I haven’t seen the sightest shred of actual evidence that Obama even prefers Summers to Yellen.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          I haven’t seen the sightest shred of actual evidence that Obama even prefers Summers to Yellen.

          True.

          On the other hand, there is plentiful evidence that the White House prefers not being lobbied by the Senate about who to pick.

          But we didn’t need “people familiar with the effort” to tell the Wall Street Journal that. We already saw the President telling them to backdafukup.

      • shah8 says:

        Yeah, I hate that, and I think the WSJ is a bigger offender when it comes to publishing self-serving leaks when it comes to politics.

        Yeah, and again, all the same, I think that unnamed sources in any of this inside politics stuff should be considered unreliable, whether that be the WSJ or elsewise.

        • rea says:

          “self-serviing leaks” Maybe not even that. “People familiar with the effort” could simply mean “this reporter.”

          • joe from Lowell says:

            And what, exactly, would be “self-serving” about these leaks?

            This story is not exactly flattering to the White House.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            Hell, it could be Larry Summers.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              Too smooth.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              If the ‘leaks’ were to point out that Yellen is:

              1. incapable of handling math above freshman calculus,
              2. she wasted valuable research time on women’s studies, and
              3. she never autographed a single dollar bill with her signature on it,

              then I would suspect Summers was the source.

              Actually, I suspect Rubin and his cronies since Summers is sort of the last hope to keep the dynasty alive. They are probably worried Yellen won’t pick up the phone the next time Citibank effs up and they need some quick cash.

    • calling all toasters says:

      Reuters and Bloomberg are reporting White House pushback as well.

  2. Paul Campos says:

    It’s a Harvard thing.

  3. [...] 9. Great item from Scott Lemieux blasting the White House for attempting to shush Democrats who are speaking up about the next Fed Ch…. [...]

  4. James E. Powell says:

    I’m generally supportive of the president and forgiving of his failure to bring socialism to the United States. But seriously, if he can’t stand senators of his own party wanting input on the chair of the fed?

    First thing. I don’t accept senators as independent actors and I don’t believe more than one or two senators actually care who chairs the fed. So, if there are a number of them who object to Summers, then some big shots with big money are telling their mostly-owned senators to speak out and the senators are obliging them. It’s not like such “pressure” could ever come from “the left.” Nobody cares what “the left” – to the extent that it even exists – has to say about economic policy.

    Second thing. This could be a personal thing. And by that I mean the president may have a personal relationship with Summers such that Summers will do exactly what the president wants for the next three years. If so, I wonder if the president has seen “Becket.”

    • Malaclypse says:

      I don’t believe more than one or two senators actually care who chairs the fed.

      I don’t believe that nobody other than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren actually cares.

      • Sharon says:

        How about Sherrod Brown. Or maybe Tom Harkin? Or just for giggles, Jeff Merkley? You know, the Senators that signed the letter asking the Preseident to choose Dr. Yellen.

  5. Manju says:

    Maybe Potus is trying to stick it to Wall Street.

  6. wetcasements says:

    Funny. I thought the second term was when a POTUS got to move towards his base and give up on appeasing the Broderites.

    Somebody forgot to forward the memo to Barack.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      You realize that your basis for this complaint is an appointment that hasn’t happened yet, right?

      • Jeremy says:

        The Summers appointment is as certain as the switch to chained CPI.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Yeah, but nowhere near as certain as Treasury Secretary Bowles.

          • janastas359 says:

            I forgot about Secretary Bowles!

            • LosGatosCA says:

              Don’t forget about reappointing Bernanke, the only other time he had a chance to appoint someone to the Fed.

              Or reappointing Gates.

              Or appointing Hagel.

              Or appointing Clapper.

              And then the breakthrough, out of the box thinking to have Clapper head the ‘independent’ thingamajiggy on that whole not spying on Americans flap.

              Obama hardly ever appoints non-progressive people to important jobs.

              Nothing to worry about here – move along.

              • LosGatosCA says:

                Or Comey at the FBI.

                Those appointments are spurious outliers that give no indication of Obama’s preferences in the least.

                Think of each one of them as non-repeatable unique instances that had extenuating circumstances that won’t ever apply in other situations.

                You know, like Bush v Gore on voting precedents.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  On the 2 most powerful positions in the US government outside of Obama himself – DoD and the FED – he’s had four appointments:

                  Bernanke
                  Gates
                  Panetta
                  Hagel

                  Pick the one that’s not the same as the other three.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  It’s true–Leon Panetta is a dirty Italian.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Actually, LGA, the rest of us were talking about actions in which TRUE PROGRESSIVES live yourself spent weeks bemoaning with dead-certainty appointments that never happened – certainty based not on any facts, but merely the “Boo hiss Obama” thought process on display here. But I’m sure going back to the well will work out just great for you this time.

                  As it turns out, not every conversation about politics, and not every judgement about future events, is necessary a referendum on whether Barack Obama rox or sux.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  Obama’s nominees deserve skepticism based on past performance of the most important admin positions.

                  He’s clearly not interested in strengthening the brand of the Democratic Party through his top appointments and picking Summers fits right in that vein, if he does it.

                  Hopefully he acts out of his prior pattern and picks at least a nominal Democrat this time. But his action in this regard should not be assumed in any way.

  7. Chatham says:

    It’s the president’s prerogative to make the selection, and it’s the prerogative of his caucus to make their preferences known.

    The story also makes clear that Summers will be confirmed if he’s nominated, which isn’t a surprise.

    If Summers will be confirmed if nominated, how is the Senate making their preference known different from Green Lantern Bully Pulpitism?

    • Bill Murray says:

      The Senate has the ability to both advise and consent to this sort of nomination. I think this falls under the advise part

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      If Summers will be confirmed if nominated, how is the Senate making their preference known different from Green Lantern Bully Pulpitism?

      There are some words here, but I’m afraid you’ve failed to make them mean anything in collaboration.

      • Chatham says:

        Try reading it again. Slowly, if you must.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          I’ve read it four times, and I’m in the same place Scott is. If I said, “The Senate’s preferences must not only be consulted but obeyed!!”, then you could accuse me of misunderstanding the institutions. But “the Senate making their preference known” is a long way short of that.

          • Chatham says:

            See below. The Senate could also ask for a unicorn. After all, they’re just making their preference known, right?

            • Vance Maverick says:

              You wrote,

              how is the Senate making their preference known different from Green Lantern Bully Pulpitism?

              The answer, as joe said, is that the analogy of GLBP in the Senate case would be, not “the Senate making their preference known”, but the belief that the Senate could have what it wants if it made its preference known.

              • Chatham says:

                I suppose if I advocate for Obama to launch a campaign to have Boehner support single-payer, it’s fine as along as I admit that it’s pointless?

                • Vance Maverick says:

                  Wow, you’re being thick. It’s almost like a discussion on the Internet!

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  This comparison is brilliant because John Boehner is just as supportive of single payer as Barack Obama is of Janet Yellen. After all, Barack Obama appointed Janet Yellen to be the Fed’s Vice Chair, while John Boehner frequently compares government-funded health care to Stalinism.

                  And also, this comparison is brilliant because the relationship between Barack Obama and Senate Democrats is so precisely comparable to the relationship between John Boehner and Barack Obama.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I know you’re arguing against some strawman, but I still can’t tell which one.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Well, Chatham, there’s the complete absence of public messaging, which eliminates any relevance of the Bully Pulpit.

      And there’s the acknowledgment by the Senate that they cannot, ultimately, force their will through by being all badass, which eliminates the Green Lantern part.

      Senators quietly telling the White House behind the scenes that they have a preference, but will go along with the White House’s decision, is pretty much the polar opposite of Green Lantern Bully Pulpitism.

      • Chatham says:

        I was using the broad brush often used on this site.

        Assuming a framework where the Senate has no power here:

        1. Why should the president care about the Senates substantive and political interests?

        2. Why aren’t we laughing at members of the Senate for thinking that this campaign would mean anything at all? How is it any different from Green Lanternists? Because they believe their campaign is impotent, so somehow it makes more sense?

        3. Assuming the Senate has no power, we’re taking at face value a rumor that Obama has moved behind the scenes to quash the campaign – that according to you has no public messaging, and is powerless – presumably with all that power he has over the Senate. We know this to be true because people familiar with it told the Wall Street Journal.

        Really, this post is so full of things this site laughs at I don’t know where to begin.

        • sharculese says:

          1. Why should the president care about the Senates substantive and political interests?

          Because the majority of Senators belong to his party and presumably share similar goals, even if opinions differ on the best way to achieve those goals?

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Assuming a framework where the Senate has no power here

          Why would anyone do that?

          Senators from the President’s party have some influence, surely.

          Your argument relies upon a stupid assumptions. There’s a conclusion to draw here.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Assuming a framework where the Senate has no power here

          We’re actually assuming a Senate framework where some Senate Democrats would prefer Yellen to Summers but don’t hold this preference strongly enough to take the highly unusual step of defeating their own party’s nominee, but are also hoping to convince Obama that it’s not worth the political capital to choose Summers. Nobody’s disputing that the Senate has the power to defeat Summers if a majority wants to. But thanks for playing!

          • Chatham says:

            We’re actually assuming a Senate framework where some Senate Democrats would prefer Yellen to Summers but don’t hold this preference strongly enough to take the highly unusual step of defeating their own party’s nominee, but are also hoping to convince Obama that it’s not worth the political capital to choose Summers.

            We’re assuming that the article you posted is accurate. It describes the efforts as a campaign, one that Obama is dismissive of and trying to quash. Hell, that’s what your whole post is about. Sounds effective, eh?

            I will admit that though you seem to take the claims from unnamed sources familiar with the effort reported by the WSJ as fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t accurate.

      • Julian says:

        Not that I agree, but I actually took that to be his point–their lobbying is pointless grandstanding which cannot realistically sway Obama. Just like bully pulpiting (on some issues).

        • joe from Lowell says:

          But there actually is evidence from history that Presidents are swayed by their party’s legislative caucus.

          • Julian says:

            But, as Chatham pointed out, Scott said that the story makes clear that Summers will be confirmed if nominated. So if it’s a foregone conclusion, the whining does nothing.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              “If nominated.”

              How does “We will confirm him if nominated” void “We think we can sway the choice of a nominee?”

              The whole “foregone conclusion” is entirely from you and Chatham. There is no evidence it’s a foregone conclusion, and saying that they will go along with the President’s pick isn’t a statement that they consider it a foregone conclusion.

              • Eli Rabett says:

                How about “we will not be so anxious to do other things that you want us to do if you shove Larry down our throats.”

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  How about it? That seems to be pretty obviously their message.

                  Is that supposed to be an indication that they think it’s a foregone conclusion? Because it’s totally not.

          • Chatham says:

            But there actually is evidence from history that Presidents are swayed by their party’s legislative caucus.

            Swaying the president by making their preference known doesn’t fall into Green Lanternism? That seems to be the very definition of it.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Uh, no. Not even remotely close.

              You seem to have dumbed down the concept of “will is the only factor determining whether a policy will be adopted” to “anyone thinking they can influence politics by lobbying.”

              • Chatham says:

                Welcome to LGM. The term is often used here to describe people saying that the president should do more lobbying. If you need help, look at all the links I provided above.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                The term is often used here to describe people saying that the president should do more lobbying.

                No, it is not.

                I’m sorry about your reading skills.

                • Chatham says:

                  Welcome to LGM. The term is often used here to describe people saying that the president should do more lobbying.

                  No, it is not.

                  I’m sorry about your reading skills.

                  Eh…

                  I would be generous and assume that you merely missed this and other posts like it, but you posted several times in that thread, so, eh, good luck with that.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  It’s embarrassing that you think you just proved your point instead of mine.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Yes, clearly the fact that the president’s staff sending out mass emails won’t convince John Boehner to pass legislation proves that all political lobbying without exception is pointless. But I thank you for so nicely disproving your own strawman.

                • Chatham says:

                  Yes, clearly the fact that the president’s staff sending out mass emails won’t convince John Boehner to pass legislation proves that all political lobbying without exception is pointless.

                  It seems it’s difficult for you to address what’s actually being said instead of what you make up in your head. Nowhere did he mention targeting Boehner, or even Republicans.

                  I know you’re arguing against some strawman, but

                  Well, at least irony isn’t lost on you.

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          I think that’s where I am on it too

  8. TT says:

    Just as conservatives don’t actually give a damn about federalism, it appears that self-styled meritocrats actually don’t give a damn about meritocracy. If it was a contest on the merits Yellen would be Alabama and Summers Notre Dame.

  9. judge scheindlin says:

    Yeah, that’s going to work.

    The White House sure has been making some tone-deaf moves in the past couple of days. I wonder if it has anything to do with the POTUS going on vacation?

  10. [...] 9. Great item from Scott Lemieux blasting the White House for attempting to shush Democrats who are speaking up about the next Fed Ch…. [...]

  11. bob mcmanus says:

    1) The only way to keep Summers out is for him to withdraw himself before or after nomination. Hard going, the guy’s been vetted.

    2) If Summers withdraws, Obama will be too spiteful to give his lefty opponents a victory. It will not be Yellen. I think it will be Christy Romer. In fact, I think it is a plan of West of Appalachia bankers and economists to manipulate Obama, and give it about 50% odds that Summers withdraws.

    3) Take Obama at his word. He wants Summers because Summers can handle a crisis lie 2008. Nobody else I know except some Marxists and Post-Keynesians are predicting a financial crash that soon, so why is Obama? The logical answer is that Obama expects Summers to create a financial crisis. He could not count on Yellen or Romer to do it and take the fall.

    4) JFL at 5:53:Financiers, unlike right-wing politicians, understand that financiers make their money by having a sound economy and a stable financial system.

    Uhh, wrong. Very wrong. Industrialists like steady economies. Financiers can take temporary losses for huge medium-term gains.

    “In a depression, assets return to their rightful owners.” • Andrew Mellon

    See also:Klein, Naomi or Panitch & Gindin.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Uhh, wrong. Very wrong. Industrialists like steady economies. Financiers can take temporary losses for huge medium-term gains.

      How’d that work out five years ago? Do you think they liked having the system melt down?

      There’s a difference between the ups and downs of the business cycle and a fundamentally unsound foundation.

      Anyway, if I go back and find what you had to say about the inevitability of Treasury Secretary Erskine Bowles, am I going to find that you were more certain than in your point 1) above, less certain, or about the same?

    • jim, some guy in iowa says:

      um, Obama *wants* another financial crisis?

    • Decrease Mather says:

      Oh, fer Chrissakes. Obama expects Summers to create a crisis?

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Nobody else I know except some Marxists and Post-Keynesians are predicting a financial crash that soon, so why is Obama?

      See, folks, while this might appear mind-numbingly stupid, it actually makes sense if you remember that financial crashes are very easy to predict.

    • janastas359 says:

      If Summers withdraws, Obama will be too spiteful to give his lefty opponents a victory. It will not be Yellen. I think it will be Christy Romer. In fact, I think it is a plan of West of Appalachia bankers and economists to manipulate Obama, and give it about 50% odds that Summers withdraws.

      Christina Romer IS the lefty choice. Summers/Yellen would likely be much more in line with Bernanke. If you think that’s the way to “stick it to leftists” then you’re not paying much attention.

    • Brien Jackson says:

      “If Summers withdraws, Obama will be too spiteful to give his lefty opponents a victory. It will not be Yellen. I think it will be Christy Romer.”

      Holy God this is funny on so many levels. Just stick to defending Imperial Japan for kicks.

    • sharculese says:

      3) Take Obama at his word. He wants Summers because Summers can handle a crisis lie 2008. Nobody else I know except some Marxists and Post-Keynesians are predicting a financial crash that soon, so why is Obama? The logical answer is that Obama expects Summers to create a financial crisis. He could not count on Yellen or Romer to do it and take the fall.

      i just can’t even what the fuck

      • bob mcmanus says:

        The What the fuck is that Obama works for the banks. Always has, always will wake up in the morning and try to figure how to serve Goldman Sachs the carcasses of the working class with his morning coffee.

        There is nothing else to the guy.

        • The Banks says:

          Man, I hope there’s an economic crisis, like, really soon!

          That last one was awesome.

          You see those file cabinets? They’re full of bonds. Wouldn’t it be great if they all lost, like, 2/3 of their value?

  12. DrDick says:

    While this is somewhat disappointing, though not unexpected given indications Obama favors Summers, when did Obama ever make a good appointment on economic matters?

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Do the Department of Labor and Consumer Finance Protection Bureau count as economic matters?

      And you do know that Obama appointed Janet Yellen to be Vice Chair of the Fed, right?

  13. Hogan says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the most serious moral outrage in Scott’s post: THERE IS ONLY ONE Y IN PENNSYLVANIA.

  14. Dmitry says:

    Did you, USA citizens, know the following facts?

    First that the position of Chairman of the Federal Reserve is the most powerful man in the world?

    Secondly, that:

    Ben Bernake is a Jew.

    His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was also another Jew.

    That both Larry Summers and Jessica Yellen are a Jew?

    Put two and two together USA citizens. Do you wish to remain cuckold nation?

    • elm says:

      It’s a disturbing resemblence, to be sure, but Summers is much puffier. So unless he only dresses in drag when he’s not retaining water, they have to be different people.

  15. Murc says:

    You know, there was really no way for the White House to win on this, so I’m amazed they spoke up.

    Seriously. Either they have 60 votes (or 51 + Harry Reids assurance he can dodge a filibuster) for whoever they nominate, or they don’t. If they do, then they can let whatever Senators want to make their preferences do it, forget about it, and move on. Staying silent makes you look adult, above the fray, not stepping on the legislatures toes.

    And if you DON’T have the votes, then you don’t advertise weakness. You find out who the Senate will accept and then try and make it look like its your idea all along.

    I have some sympathy to the Senate Caucus, which is a ton of co-equal strong-willed egotists, fucking up its messaging. But the White House is top-down, hierarchical. They’re supposed to know what they’re doing.

  16. Mike D. says:

    Sorry, but this cashes out to the view that the president should just quietly accept that the caucus does not acknowledge his prerogative to choose on this one.

    Customarily, the Senate majority provides a list of acceptable names for appointments. Here, they’re providing a name. I doubt he cares who thinks what about his being irritated by this. I’d be irritated too.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      I don’t understand why he didn’t just reappoint Bernanke again. He’s a good solid conservative who won’t let inflation go above 1.27% or overregulate banks if they need large – no huge – amounts of immediate cash due to their own malfeasance and incompetence.

      Or John Taylor, he’s got his own rule named for him, and people respect it, not like the Volcker rule that nobody but them DFH’s like.

      What about Greenspan? He’s not dead yet. Advances in animatronics could give another two terms as the 21st century life size chatty cathy doll. My favorite loop would be:

      “The emerging key fiscal policy need is to address the implications of maintaining surpluses beyond the point at which publicly held debt is effectively eliminated,” Greenspan said. “It is far better, in my judgment, that the surpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases.”

      • The Banks says:

        He’s a good solid conservative who won’t let inflation go above 1.27%

        Uh, Ben Bernanke has run the loosest monetary policy in American history for years on end, with no end on sight.

        Have you, by chance, checked with any conservatives to feel them out on this?

      • Cody says:

        I’m not fan of Bernanke, but he certainly has done a decent job. He’s been a punching bag ever since Obama took office, and has gotten a few good quips off at Republicans questioning his economics.

        I would probably label him as an old-school Republican, which pretty much puts him center-left probably now…

      • LosGatosCA says:

        The Fed is a regulator – check out how many conditions were attached to the trillions of expansion in the Fed portfolio as it happened.

        Even Dick fucking Cheney knew it was Herbert Hoover time in 2008, no special insight required.

        A conservative can even stick to Milton Friedman on what the prescription is for avoiding Depression contraction, no need to be a Keynesian.

        Bernanke was not counter productive on Fed policy, but he was no thought leader on trying to address the underlying problems while he was doing it. The best time to get concessions from people is when they need that life preserver in your hand.

  17. Jesse Levine says:

    This would all be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Apparently this appointment is being greeted with the seriousness which it deserves and a lot of the commentors seem to have some difficulty in reconciling their feelings toward the President with his rumored actions here. For me it is a confirmation of my fears that he is in a downward spiral towards centrist legacy building. The deregulation movement of the Clinton administration, led by Summers among others, was forseeable as a devastating force applied against the middle and lower economic classes. The repeal of Glass-Steagall was the worst, as I argued to friends who were contributing to their bank employer PACs pushing the repeal. To appoint someone with that history is a horrible mistake. I wish Obama was as tough on Republicans as he seems to be towards his own formerly ardent supporters. (By the way, I am disappointed in the snark. Only one reference to GG and none to Rand Paul.)

    • Brien Jackson says:

      Could you please explain how repealing Glass-Steagall was “the worst” factor in creating a crisis precipitated by the collapse of an institution totally unaffected by said regulation?

      Not that I want Summers appointed, or anything, but this combination of ignorant totem-grabbing and pretending there’s some massive policy difference between Summers and Yellen is incredibly irritating.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      This rumor is a confirmation.

      I see.

  18. Jessse Levine says:

    Because it freed regulated institutions to gamble without restrictions and led to the law preventing regulation of derivatives. You and Joe from Lowell are some tag team.

  19. [...] already know: there’s a disarmingly good chance that Obama will nominate Summers even though Yellen is plainly the better choice, and at least some people in the White House want to make Summers seem inevitable. (Although some [...]

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