For some of J.F.K.’s best and brightest, Halberstam wrote, wisdom came “after Vietnam.” We have to hope that wisdom is coming to Summers and Geithner as they struggle with our financial Tet. Clearly it has not come to Rubin. Asked by The Times in April if he’d made any mistakes at Citigroup, he sounded as self-deluded as McNamara in retirement.
“I honestly don’t know,” Rubin answered. “In hindsight, there are a lot of things we’d do differently. But in the context of the facts as I knew them and my role, I’m inclined to think probably not.” Since that interview, 52,000 Citigroup employees have been laid off but not Rubin, who remains remorseless, collecting a salary that has totaled in excess of $115 million since 1999. You may be touched to hear that he is voluntarily relinquishing his bonus this Christmas.
Rubin hasn’t been seen in a transition photo op since Nov. 7, and in the end Obama chose Paul Volcker as chairman of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. This was a presidential decision not only bright but wise
-The Brightest Are Not Always the Best
Thoughts on Rubinomics
Rubin himself credits as most important his habit of "probabilistic thinking": always asking questions like "what else might happen?", and "what if we're wrong?"; looking at the full range of possible outcomes rather than the most likely or the most comfortable; and recognizing that just because things came out well doesn't necesssarily mean that you made a good decision, and that just because things turned out badly does not necessarily mean that you made a bad one.
Why Was Bob Rubin Such a Good Public Servant?