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Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

Some writers eventually take up residence in the Land Beyond Parody. Such is the case with the New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

For example, revisiting a concern he expressed in early 2008 about a few kind words Barack Obama had to say about Ronald Reagan (Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing”), Krugman writes, “it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology. But are you so sure about that now?”

How could we be, with the ever-vigilant Dr. Krugman on the case?

According to the Princeton professor, this time President Obama’s unpardonable sin is saying this: “We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

It gets worse: “More and more,” Krugman writes, “it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts. And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.”

What appears to be happening is that, as some of us anticipated, the left is distancing itself from Obama because his presidency is perceived to be coming apart. Those on the left desperately want to protect their ideology from the collateral damage of a failed presidency. So the new narrative is that Obama is not really a liberal at all or, in this instance, he’s actually a quasi-conservative, at least when it comes to his “view of the world” and the “mythological history” he embraces.

These recriminations cannot be good news for either President Obama or for liberalism. Nor can any of this be easy for Mr. Krugman. He is, after all, the man who, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, wrote this:

A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

I guess at that time, Krugman wasn’t able to get past the soaring rhetoric to actually pay attention to what Obama said.

With every passing week, Paul Krugman ventures further into the fantasy world he is constructing in the wake of the collapse of liberalism’s former demigod. It is a somewhat affecting and endlessly amusing thing to watch.


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