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Did Robert Rubin apologize? You be the judge.

Did he or didn’t he? Headline writers seemed torn Friday over whether Bob Rubin actually apologized during his testimony to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission this week. The Financial Times headline read, “Ex-Citi chiefs apologise for losses.” The Washington Post agreed: “Citgroup executives apologize for not averting financial crisis.” But the New York Times dissented with, “Contrition, and Lack of It, at Citigroup Hearing,” concluding that former Citi CEO Charles Prince had apologized, but that Rubin had not. Who’s right?

As always, Seinfeld offers relevant moral instruction. My wife Jody, looking at the papers Friday, said the headline clash reminded her of the classic Seinfeld apology episode from 1997. In that show, George wants an apology from Jason, a recovering alcoholic who insulted him a few years back, and who now, as part of his 12-step AA program, needs to make amends with those he wronged while on the booze. When pushed, however, Jason offers a classic non-apology apology (“I’m so sorry I didn’t want your rather bulbous head struggling to find its way through the normal-size neckhole of my finely knit sweater”) so George confronts him later at the ice cream shop where Jason works.

“I’ve thought it over,” Jason tells George. “My apology... was sarcastic and rude and you deserved much better.”

George isn’t satisfied. “I’m not sure if technically what you just said was actually an apology.”

Just then Jason says “I’m sorry” to a customer.

“There it is, you just said it!” George screams. “That’s what I want, now say it again!”

Back to Citigroup. With former Citigroup chairman Charles Prince, there’s no question: The man went off his written testimony at the outset to offer what the Times called an “abject apology.” “Let me start by saying I'm sorry,” Prince said. “I'm sorry the financial crisis has had such a devastating impact on our country. I'm sorry for the millions of people, average Americans, who have lost their homes. And I'm sorry that our management team, starting with me, like so many others, could not see the unprecedented market collapse that lay before us.”

But, as the Times noted, “Mr. Rubin stopped short of accepting personal responsibility.” The word “sorry” did not pass his lips. As The Post noted, Rubin “framed the breakdown at Citigroup and other companies as a collective failure, in which ‘almost all of us… missed the powerful combination of forces at work and the serious possibility of a massive crisis. We all bear responsibility for not recognizing this, and I deeply regret that.’"

Apology? Or no? It would fun to hear a ruling from Larry David, who wrote much of Seinfeld and was the model for George’s character. PostPartisan readers should weigh in with their verdict themselves. Whatever your take, one thing is clear: neither Prince nor Rubin apologized for making more than $100 million each before handing off a wrecked Citigroup to the rest of us for billions in bailouts. On that, we’re still waiting.

By Matt Miller  | April 9, 2010; 11:36 PM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Comments

Say what you will about seppuku, one thing it has going for it is that it eliminates absolutely all doubt about the sincerity of an apology.

Posted by: fzdybel | April 10, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Who needs apologies? Just give me back my money.

Posted by: observer100 | April 10, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Rubin is sorry! If you listened closely, you could have heard him crying all the way to the bank: Citibank.

But what is it exactly that Rubin is sorry for? Not finishing out his term as Secretary of the Treasury, showing up on the payroll over at Citigroup after championing the Financial Services Modernization Act on behalf of his new employer, or failing in his duty to the American people.

Posted by: bancodelio | April 10, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

An apology from any of the politicians, bankers, mortgage salesmen, or others who profited from the bubble would be meaningless. Only if they give up a significant part of their ill-gotten gains would I accept any apology.

Posted by: annegreen | April 11, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Brooksley Born and PBS Frontline asserts that attempts to reign in OTC Derivatives practices were stopped by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers, who lobbied Congress to ignore Ms. Born's warnings.

I doubt we will ever know if heeding her and allowing her to do her job (oversee and regulate such agreements) would have mitigated this disaster.

Frontline's "The Warning" sure seems to damn the behavior of these three guys who did NOT have any regulatory or enforcement powers over those derivatives.

Posted by: rowens1 | April 11, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

GET REAL! Rubin's comments were not an apology! And even if you mistakingly think they were, the apology is absolutely empty until he pays back his ill-gotten gains...and that goes for Charles Prince, too!

Posted by: mel-wagner | April 12, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

We need clawback laws to be able to go after the hundreds of millions in compensation these guys have ripped from the system.

Posted by: roscoegorts | April 12, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

An honest "apology" would go like this:

"I'm supposed to be very smart about economic and financial matters. But I was dumb about the housing market, an Econ 101 bubble, and the mortgage-backed securities and derivatives that were spun out of that bubble by Wall Street and my own bank. I was driven by self-interest and the herd instinct. That's embarrassing. If I had maintained a certain objectivity and intellectual integrity I might have seen things more clearly and made better decisions. I regret that I didn't. I failed."

But I don't think you'll hear that from Rubin. He's not a big enough man.

Posted by: Roytex | April 12, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Rubin did not apologize. Rubin tip-toed through the tulips. He is very smart and realizes what he has to say is going to be analyzed and reanalyzed and he does not want to be the man held responsible for the economic collapse. He appears earnest. He doesn't seem to get it that his reputation will never be the same. He was not the wizard for good that many felt during his service to the Clinton administration.

Posted by: carolsbarber | April 12, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry?

Are the Democrats who controlled FNMA sorry for pumping out years and years of potential toxic assets?

Are the Democrats in congress sorry for blocking all new practical domestic energy and just standing by and watching as gas prices quadrupled killing the the auto business and causing layoffs in all businesses and pushing those potential toxic assets over the cliff to REAL TOXIC ASSETS?

Are the Democrats sorry for being up to their necks in causing this Crisis?

Hey WP, under what rock did find Miller.

Posted by: jblast2000 | April 12, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

related event in democracy in u s a: see below:

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Learning to work with our man in Afghanistan
Washington needs to realize that Hamid Karzai is the best partner it can have.
- By Fareed Zakaria

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Home />All Categories > Politics & Government >Elections >Your Open Question

Grape S_democracy_new ethics Member since:April 11, 2010Total points:85 (Level 1)Your Open QuestionShow me another » Electoral partcipations@weaker comunities@USA may reveal their concerns,odd raise@basic needed fund to lead:ok?
dr the rev kamal karna roy said above phrase in new york, usa, as a rebel gop candidate both u s senate from n y state, & the governor of new york state nov 2010 electoions. he soliited write in votes @ ballots to be elected from eligibble voters of new york. win of losekamal karna stratgy to contest may mend the electoral process in nation. dr roy went to federal courts to order govt authorities to release seed money for poor and weaker candidates @election comparable to public assistances for liiving expences of needy of states of usa. lectoral process,leader et al are apetite @ democracy,the rev dr kamal roy was a legal fec regd candidate of u s president, nov 4. 2008 elec.he filed more than jusual number of election petitions to oid election of Obama of 2008 elections with violations including u s birth of obama bh,later failed to proved and he violated legal need to provide, the facts were alleged by dr roy u s wide in most district of violations and in the i c j.
58 minutes ago- 4 days left to answer.
4/12/2010 11:59:54 AM

Posted by: monicanixon | April 12, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

1. Rubin did not apologize, that is clear.
2. Prince did apologize, but so what, he and others pay no real price, other than a tarmished image. And they have millions to help them get over that.
3. I love posters who try to blame this on one party,like jblast2000. Republicans and Democrats both are to blame. Remember, W was the "ownership" President. And the under regulation has Repub prints all over it. Everyone was for it, until they were against it.

Posted by: jroane | April 12, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I think Bob Rubin, the Pope, and Bill Clinton share the common trait of believing apologies alone make everything all better. The hypocrisy of these men is truly breath taking.

So here is a piece of advice Bob: If you are really sorry, just give back the scores of millions you made while incompetently helping to lead Citigroup over a cliff.

Give the money back Bob and all will be forgiven. Needless to say however, no money, no forgiveness.

And so it goes...

Posted by: pgould1 | April 12, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Rob Rubin and his protege Timmy Geithner, together with ex-gury Greenspan, sent in their pit-bull by the name of Larry Summers to bark at Ms Brooksley Born back in '98.

She, as head of CFTC, demanded that these 'gamblers' who were busy converting the world's markets into their own private Casino (no oversight; they were supreme!) stop their over the counter Derivative games. Born rightly felt there was no regulation nor oversight over these catastrophic derivatives. She threatened their metaphysical financial entities games with an analysis paper that pointed out their almost criminal handling of these credit default swaps that were destroying the financial fabric.

Brooksley was a friend of Hillary Clinton, but was passed over by Pres. Bill Clinton who had found her 'boring; for the Attorney General's job.

The Derivatives Gang of Rubin, Greenspan, Timmy and Larry promptly ensured that Brooksley.....resign! She resigned the year after being told by ideologically-challenged Greenspan that:

"Fraud in the markets? The Markets will take care of it themselves. No regulation, Brooksley...it's necessary".

These shamefully self-serving politicos should be all facing charges commensurate to their devastating role in the coverup of this impending disaster and their silencing of the strong voice of Brooksley Born.

Aren't they even embarrassed making their appearance at the Financial Crisis Inquiry?

Gamblers of this sordid type that destroys lives and the futures of millions around the world should be brought to Justice. Obviously they are not as Wall Street Journal reported on how Goldman Sachs'/SorosFund/Greenlight and all the "usual suspects" are back at their game.

These gruesome, blood-sucking SPECULATIVE VULTURES have 'graduated' and are now attacking freely even sovereign European countries like Greece! What next?
And to think Obama is afraid to regulate these financial 'wizards of Oz' and/or provide sufficient oversight even!

As Brooksley Born said, if left unregulated, these vultures will cause yet another disaster and this will be repeated until "we learn our lesson". Now's the time for Obama to act like a real president and not be afraid of these straw men of prey that are destroying the world's economies!....

Posted by: MSakel | April 12, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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