Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis says President Obama gets him.
In a profile of Varoufakis in this week’s New Yorker, Varoufakis recalls a conversation with Obama at the White House this spring in which Obama told him, among other things, that he was no fan of austerity and that he understood Varoufakis’ dilemma.
From the New Yorker (emphasis added):
Obama showed more solidarity than Varoufakis was expecting. “I know — austerity sucks,” Obama said. (“He used those words. Very un-Presidential.”) According to Varoufakis, the President was referring less to austerity’s unpleasantness than to its ineffectiveness. Obama meant that austerity “doesn’t work — it creates misery, and it’s self-perpetuating, and it’s self-defeating.”
Varoufakis told Obama that he hadn’t felt quite the same comradeship when speaking with the U.S. Treasury Secretary. “Jack Lew is not toeing the Obama line,” he said.
“You know how finance ministers are,” Obama replied. “They’re more conservative.”
Obama also told Varoufakis that he did not envy him.
The setting for Varoufakis’ meeting, however, was not exactly what you’d expect for a meeting between the US president and one of Europe’s most important financial leaders.
According to the New Yorker’s Ian Parker, Varoufakis met with Obama at a celebration for Greek Independence Day. Varoufakis called the setting “appalling.”
“All these people were pushing in to talk to him and hug him,” Varoufakis told Parker, with Varoufakis adding that over his right shoulder, John Stamos was crowding him.
But this, however, led to what Varoufakis called, “a more serious conversation than I would have had in the Oval Office.”
Presumably, in Varoufakis’ view, meeting in the more staid Oval Office setting would have seen the conversation turn more vaguely bureaucratic, much like the seemingly endless Eurogroup meetings Varoufakis endured in which, ultimately, next to nothing got figured out.
Since resigning as Greece’s finance minister following the July 5 referendum, Varoufakis has been a near-constant presence in the media.
But with this weekend’s reports about a plan to bring back the drachma and Monday’s big New Yorker profile, anybody who wants to read about the latest Greek crisis and the trials and tribulations of Yanis Varoufakis has many thousands of words to devour. In addition to a statement from Varoufakis himself.