Howard Kurtz profiles New York Times columnist, Princeton economics professor, and Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman this Monday in The Washington Post. The profile is sprinkled with delicious little tidbits about the often irate--some might even say shrill--figure, including that his fellow columnist and former New York Times boss Gail Collins thinks it's okay that people find him a bit repetitive: "That's what great columnists do--pick great themes and go at them and not feel, 'Oh, my God, I've already written about this.'"
We highly recommend reading the whole thing, starting with the picturesque shrimp salad opening. But in case you're aiming for a speedier perusal, here are the key, meatier parts.
KRUGMAN THE WRITER AND THE MAN
In his writing, Krugman is by turns scolding and scathing, passionate and pedantic. ... In person, Krugman is several shades warmer, grousing about jet lag and delays in renovating the $1.7 million co-op he recently bought on Riverside Drive. ...
Krugman never betrays less than absolute certainty that he is right and many other smart folks--such as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who hired him at Princeton--are wrong.
THE BEGINNING OF THE KRUGMAN COLUMN
Krugman planned to write mainly about business and economic issues, but became a political polemicist in response to what he saw as the mendacity of the Bush administration. He argued vociferously against the march to war in Iraq at a time when even many Democrats were supporting it. "That was as close as we've come to a new McCarthyism," he says. "I was getting a lot of mail calling me a traitor. You felt the whole world had gone mad, except for you and a few of your friends."
PROFESSOR VS. COLUMNIST
The president invited Krugman and other economists to an off-the-record roast beef dinner in April 2009. Didn't that put Krugman in the position of advising the man he often writes about?
"I talk to people wearing my professor hat, not my reporter hat," he says. "I don't [quote] 'senior administration officials'--I'm sure if I tried, I'd be no good at it. I don't get any jollies about meeting with important people. . . . I don't care about access. I'm not going to be influenced by implicit promises of or threats of withholding access." But whatever hat he dons, it's hard to imagine that top officials aren't trying to sway him.
KRUGMAN'S LIFE AND BELIEFS
Krugman would seem to have an exceedingly comfortable life. There's the large house in Princeton, described by the New Yorker as being in "Japanese modern style," the New York apartment and the condo on the beach in St. Croix. ... People's heads turn in restaurants, like the one where he is lunching.
So why does he seem so angry?
For one thing, Krugman fervently believes the country is careening down the wrong road. And as a writer, his default setting is righteous indignation.