Newsweek's Evan Thomas, who has the big cover story on the rather prickly relationship between the White House and Paul Krugman, offered a rather surprising insight into the relationship between the two.
Speaking to MSNBC on Monday, the longtime magazine scribe said that the Obama administration is not "too crazy about Krugman" (no surprise, considering how much criticism Krugman has laid on the White House's economic policies) and that, in private, they "think he is naïve."
"They think he is naive, that his idea of bank nationalization is not going to work," said Thomas. "But they are careful not to criticize him on the record."
"You know, I think the administration is trying to ignore Krugman, quite frankly," Thomas went on. "But they can't entirely because he has a big voice. You know, that platform of the New York Times, that's a big platform. And he's got his Nobel Prize. You have to take him seriously and can't just ignore him."
This is telling, not least because Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, was more prescient about some of the current financial and economic woes than key members of the Obama brain-trust.
But from conversations I've had with the administration, I'm not sure if it is entirely true. Krugman does levy some of the harshest critiques at the president's policies -- critiques that sting both because of who Krugman is and where (professionally and philosophically) he comes from. The White House, however, has consulted with him on many matters -- though not all. Krugman, for his part, told Newsweek that "the White House has done very little by way of serious outreach."
Moreover, officials in the executive office view him not as naïve but rather as someone who happens to come from "a different ideological perspective."
That said, the relationship works two ways. And it is Krugman, not the Obama White House, who has publicly leveled charges of naivety. From Thomas' piece comes this excerpt:
"In the 2008 election, Krugman first leaned toward populist John Edwards, then Hillary Clinton. 'Obama offered a weak health-care plan,' he explains, 'and he had a postpartisan shtik, which I thought was naive.'"