In response to New York Times economist and columnist (ecolumnist?) Paul Krugman’s stern but civil request for an apology, fellow Times staffer and fresh-faced finance reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin drafted — brace yourselves — a politely-phrased open letter to Krugman. An ego battle this banal poses a real threat that one of the combatants may fall unconscious, from sheer boredom. It’s like watching a flyweight-division bout where both challenger and champ are wearing Sock-em Bop-ems.
Much of the problem stems from the complexity of mooted solutions to the banking crisis. Receivership, nationalization and temporary nationalization are each at once loosely defined and loaded words. When the issue is who said what, both sides have a lot of wiggle room for caveats and clarifications — which perhaps explains why this scuffle carries the muted fury one might expect from members of the Gray Lady army.
Sorkin had said earlier this week in a column that both Krugman, a nobel-winning economist, and Nouriel Roubini, the eternal Debbie Downer of financial markets, had advocated for nationalization of the U.S. banking system. Krugman responded by telling Sorkin to stick his nose in the corner for talking out of turn in a blog post titled “Andrew Ross Sorkin Owes Several People an Apology.”
Now Sorkin, in a post blisteringly titled “Dear Professor Krugman,” stands by his reporting, calmly selecting works by both Krugman and Roubini that indicate their affinity for the Swedish model of bank nationalization. The letter includes phrases like “I’m a big fan of yours,” “Just so there is no confusion,” and “Again, I love reading your column.” Sorkin also writes:
I appreciate that you may have articulated the details of your views differently, or more specifically, in other columns and forums. And I appreciate that you could quibble with my words. But I do think it is clear that both you and Mr. Roubini had pressed for a Swedish-style nationalization. (By the way, at the time, I had thought the Swedish model was a pretty interesting approach, too.)
What’s the opposite of “Oh, snap!”? Oh, crumble? Oh, hamburgers? Because that’s the appropriate response.