God it must be fun being Nouriel Roubini. Once dismissed as a bit of a crackpot by the Davos elite, Dr Doom is now the star of the show – billed as “the man who got it right”. At dinners, seminars and parties, everybody now wants to hear from the great Roubini. What is going to happen next? Nothing very good, apparently - he thinks the US banking system is basically insolvent, and the same goes for Europe.
The great thing about being Roubini is that not only is he now widely hailed as cleverer than everybody else – he is also able to imply that he is morally superior and more courageous as well. Part of the current Roubini patter is that many other analysts got it wrong because their judgement was clouded by conflicts of interest. Others, he thinks, lacked the intellectual courage to consistently stand out from the crowd. This makes him sound like an arrogant sod. Maybe so – but he is also appealingly dishevelled and quite funny.
Those are not words I would apply to Vladimir Putin. I went to an off-the-record thing with him yesterday so – apologies – I cannot reveal the not-very-startling things he said. But watching him at close quarters is rather fascinating. He is small, extremely fit-looking, with piercing blue eyes and a nice line in mirthless laughter. As a colleague put it to me later, “I wouldn’t want to be in a room with just him and a bare light-bulb.”