Obama's dinner with Stiglitz and Krugman

We know they ate roast beef and discussed the banking system. The rest is a mystery.

Published May 4, 2009 6:27PM (EDT)

In David Leonhardt's epic interview with President Obama, published in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine but which actually took place on April 14, the president says he has "enormous respect" for economist Joseph Stiglitz and that "I actually am looking forward to having these folks in for ongoing discussion."

Now we learn from Newsweek, (via Taegan Goddard) that:

On the night of April 27, for instance, the president invited to the White House some of his administration's sharpest critics on the economy, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz. Over a roast-beef dinner, Obama listened and questioned while Krugman and Stiglitz, both Nobel Prize winners, pushed for more aggressive government intervention in the banking system.

Not even a whisper of this momentous news made it into Paul Krugman's blog, which seems to me to represent a misuse of the medium. I'm sure the conversation was designated off-the-record, which makes it understandable why we have no blow-by-blow from Krugman, but still: I promise all HTWW readers that if I ever have dinner with the president, I will at least mention it in this blog. What else are blogs for if not  to tell people about your cool dinner dates?

Oh, but would I have loved to have been a mouse in that dining room.

KRUGMAN: If you do not nationalize Citigroup and Bank of America, you will have proven to the American people that the White House is owned, lock-stock-and-barrel, by Wall Street!

STIGLITZ: The Geithner plan to fix the banking system is outright robbery of the American people, Mr. President!

OBAMA: How do you like your roast beef? Raw and bloody, I presume? Please, have some more.

One thing we do know: Paul Krugman's oppositional stance was not ameliorated by the meeting, at least as judged by his last two blog posts, here and here. Although one does wonder if Obama's harsh attack Thursday on the hedge funds who refused to budge on Chrysler was in any way influenced by the two Nobel Prize-winning economists.

In any case, although I feel inclined to agree with Newsweek's Evan Thomas that "it will take more than a few dinner parties to avoid the fate of presidents who lost touch with reality," I'm still glad to hear that alternate points of view are making it into the White House.

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