Paul Krugman's "15 minutes"

Surely the gadfly economist's track record has earned him more than an Andy Warhol-allotment of fame.

Published March 30, 2009 9:51PM (EDT)

Evan Thomas' Newsweek cover story "Obama Is Wrong" is a profile of Paul Krugman that spends a lot more time in telling us, People magazine-style, about what the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times Op-Ed columnist is like, as a person, than it does delving into the details of his critique of White House economic policy.

It's almost as if, you know, nobody had ever heard of this Princeton economic geek before he "emerged as Obama's toughest liberal critic."

Felix Salmon does a great job dissecting the various ways that Thomas treats Krugman unfairly. I will add only my reaction to the beginning of one specific sentence:

Krugman is having his 15 minutes and enjoying it ...

His 15 minutes!? I will grant that Krugman's overall media profile has never been higher than it is right this second. But his current fame is hardly a Warholian outburst of notoriety that streaks across the sky like a comet and then is gone, leaving only the faintest of traces in our memory. Thomas writes that "reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he's wrong, and you sense he's being a little harsh (especially about Geithner), but you have a creeping feeling that he knows something that others cannot, or will not, see." But Thomas never explains why the "establishment" can't shake that creeping feeling. And the answer to that is quite simple: His track record as the mainstream media's most unrelenting critic of George Bush was validated, to an extraordinary degree, by the utter shambles that the now departed, but hardly lamented, Republican administration bequeathed unto the nation and the world.

We take Krugman seriously as an Obama critic because he was right about George Bush, and therefore he may well be correct about Obama (or Geithner). This is not a "15 minutes" phenomenon. This is the culmination of a groundswell long in the making. CNBC's Rick Santelli gets his 15 minutes when he rants about "mortgage losers." Paul Krugman will be a force to be reckoned with for many, many years to come. There's a difference.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works Paul Krugman U.s. Economy