Mr. Doll concurred, and noted Mr. Greenspan faced similar scrutiny when he became Fed chairman.
"We wish we could have Ben Bernanke come in as chairman of the Fed having 15 years of experience as chairman of the Fed," he said. "But we have to say when Alan Greenspan came in, he had zero experience, too."
Though Mr. Bernanke's anti-inflation credentials may be well established at the Fed and in the academic community — he was an economics professor at Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., from 1985 to 2002 —his long-held interest in setting a specific target for inflation distinguishes him from Mr. Greenspan, who preferred an unofficial inflation target.
"He's much more likely to go for the kind of inflation targeting practiced by the Bank of England, where they do projections of where they think inflation is going to be one to two years from now and base their actions on that projection," Mr. Probyn said. "That means that if we're above the target but it's projected to go below, it doesn't prevent him from cutting (interest rates) if economic activity's weak and vice versa."
Richard Hoey, chief economist at Mellon Financial Corp., Pittsburgh, said he doubted Mr. Bernanke would initially push hard for an official inflation target, which would require congressional approval.
Still, Mr. Hoey said the Fed's focus, which by legislative mandate is supposed to be price stability or inflation control and economic growth, would lean toward inflation fighting.
"I think the new focus of Fed debate will be expected inflation and future inflation forecasts, because what neither side of this official inflation target debate disagrees about is that the actual future path of inflation in the long run, and the expectations of the public about it, are crucial," he said. "So you're going to change both the Fed discussion to be more intensely focused on core inflation in the long term and what the market response to that will be."
Mr. O'Brien at Morgan Stanley said even if Mr. Bernanke sharpens the Fed's focus on inflation and its risks, he still will face political challenges that Mr. Greenspan has not faced.
"I don't doubt Bernanke's inflation-fighting credentials or objectives, but I do feel he does not have as much political horsepower as Greenspan," he said. "As inflation rises — and I believe there is a risk of higher inflation — there will not be unanimity in the political establishment about how hard to fight it, and that is where Greenspan would have an advantage over Bernanke — in having the political credibility to actively resist higher inflation, which means a tighter (monetary) policy."
However, that would be a test for "the policy process as a whole," rather than for Mr. Bernanke, Mr. O'Brien added.