Commentary Magazine


Topic: Paul Krugman

Why Americans Go to War

I wonder what it says about the modern “progressive” mindset that Paul Krugman can only imagine two reasons to wage war: for profit or for the political advantage of the leader who initiates hostilities. He (rightly) debunks the idea of waging war to make money in most cases, but is sympathetic to the idea that some leaders initiate hostilities to bolster domestic support–he thinks Vladimir Putin is one such today and that the Chinese leaders could be another example in the future although why he thinks that George W. Bush belongs in the same category is unclear. (Krugman argues that the Iraq War helped Bush win reelection but in fact it nearly cost him the 2004 election and in any case the political consequences were unforeseeable, and I believe irrelevant, when Bush launched the war in 2003.)

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I wonder what it says about the modern “progressive” mindset that Paul Krugman can only imagine two reasons to wage war: for profit or for the political advantage of the leader who initiates hostilities. He (rightly) debunks the idea of waging war to make money in most cases, but is sympathetic to the idea that some leaders initiate hostilities to bolster domestic support–he thinks Vladimir Putin is one such today and that the Chinese leaders could be another example in the future although why he thinks that George W. Bush belongs in the same category is unclear. (Krugman argues that the Iraq War helped Bush win reelection but in fact it nearly cost him the 2004 election and in any case the political consequences were unforeseeable, and I believe irrelevant, when Bush launched the war in 2003.)

But the broader failing of Krugman’s article–amazing for a man who, whatever you think of his politics, is highly intelligent and broadly educated–is that he entirely omits a major reason why countries fight wars: to defend their liberties. Krugman is presumably familiar with the theory of “just war,” but there is no sign of it in his article that assumes that all wars are initiated for one ignoble motive or another. This is perhaps an indication of how far liberalism has come from the fighting faith of its greatest champions–presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

They were familiar with war and yet did not dismiss it as nothing more than a crass, self-interested undertaking. Recall Kennedy’s famous inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Or FDR’s D-Day prayer in 1944: “Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

America’s brave troopers today fight for freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, all the while yearning, as FDR said, “for the end of battle” when they can return home. They are not there to seize natural resources or to pump up a president’s approval ratings–nor, for all of my differences with President Obama, do I believe he has ordered troops into harm’s way for such nefarious purposes. War may be a brutal, ugly business, and one that should never be undertaken lightly; but it is also the essential safeguard of peace and freedom. Presumably Krugman understands that, but his failure to take note if it is nevertheless startling–and telling.

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Ryan and Liberal Welfare-State Amnesia

At first it seemed like just a minor kerfuffle, the sort of thing that happens to every politician and soon fades away. Paul Ryan says something on a talk show. Liberals howl. Conservatives defend. And a couple of days later nobody even remembers what it was about. But now I’m convinced it’s about something bigger than the normal inside-baseball political fights. What’s at stake is an attempt to reinstate the old shibboleths that were the foundation of the liberal welfare state that was buried when President Bill Clinton said the era of big government was over and then signed a historic welfare reform act into law.

I’m referring, of course, to the dustup that ensued after the chair of the House Budget Committee said the following on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

That provoked the left to blast him as a racist using “dog whistle” politics in which “inner cities” means black. But as I pointed out on Friday, the faux outrage being ginned up against Ryan flew in the face of just about everything we had learned about the role that family breakdowns and cultural problems have played in creating and perpetuating poverty. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a recognition that one of the unintended consequences of the creation of the welfare state was the way it had produced a near-permanent underclass in our cities that no amount of government largesse seemed capable of ameliorating. As I noted last week, the backlash against Ryan seemed rooted in forgetting everything Daniel Patrick Moynihan taught us about the subject.

But rather than tailing off after a day as I anticipated, the assault on Ryan seems to be growing. In the last three days, we’ve seen a new round of attacks from even more prominent sources such as this hit piece from Politico Magazine and a 700-word-long rant from (as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto likes to call him) “former Enron advisor” Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Yet rather than this being a case of the left simply seeking to damage a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, what is going on is something much bigger. The discussion about “income inequality” was intended to change the subject from ObamaCare and to breathe some life into the lame-duck Obama presidency but it is now morphing into something far more ambitious: erasing the last half-century of debate about the problems of the welfare state.

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At first it seemed like just a minor kerfuffle, the sort of thing that happens to every politician and soon fades away. Paul Ryan says something on a talk show. Liberals howl. Conservatives defend. And a couple of days later nobody even remembers what it was about. But now I’m convinced it’s about something bigger than the normal inside-baseball political fights. What’s at stake is an attempt to reinstate the old shibboleths that were the foundation of the liberal welfare state that was buried when President Bill Clinton said the era of big government was over and then signed a historic welfare reform act into law.

I’m referring, of course, to the dustup that ensued after the chair of the House Budget Committee said the following on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

That provoked the left to blast him as a racist using “dog whistle” politics in which “inner cities” means black. But as I pointed out on Friday, the faux outrage being ginned up against Ryan flew in the face of just about everything we had learned about the role that family breakdowns and cultural problems have played in creating and perpetuating poverty. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a recognition that one of the unintended consequences of the creation of the welfare state was the way it had produced a near-permanent underclass in our cities that no amount of government largesse seemed capable of ameliorating. As I noted last week, the backlash against Ryan seemed rooted in forgetting everything Daniel Patrick Moynihan taught us about the subject.

But rather than tailing off after a day as I anticipated, the assault on Ryan seems to be growing. In the last three days, we’ve seen a new round of attacks from even more prominent sources such as this hit piece from Politico Magazine and a 700-word-long rant from (as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto likes to call him) “former Enron advisor” Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Yet rather than this being a case of the left simply seeking to damage a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, what is going on is something much bigger. The discussion about “income inequality” was intended to change the subject from ObamaCare and to breathe some life into the lame-duck Obama presidency but it is now morphing into something far more ambitious: erasing the last half-century of debate about the problems of the welfare state.

Ryan’s problem is not just that he tripped over the way some on the left have tried to turn the use of the phrase “inner cities” into a code word for racist incitement. The newly energized left wing of the Democratic Party wants something far bigger than to delegitimize the intellectual leader of the Republican congressional caucus. What they want is to take us back to those heady days of the 1960s before Moynihan’s report on the black family started to strip away the veneer of good intentions that defended government policies that hurt the poor far more than it helped them.

The point is, absent the buzz words about inner cities, you’d have to have spent the last 50 years trapped in some kind of time warp in order to think there was anything even vaguely controversial about the notion that cultural problems play a huge role in creating poverty. To his credit, Andrew Sullivan concedes as much when he defended Ryan from attacks by fellow liberals. Sullivan gets bogged down in a defense of Charles Murray’s seminal book Losing Ground and the question of various ethnic groups’ IQ numbers.

But the argument here is far more basic than such esoteric intellectual debates. The talk about income inequality isn’t only an attempt to associate Republicans with their traditional allies in big business and reposition Democrat elites as the friend of the working class. The goal of resurgent liberalism is also to reboot discussions about poverty in such a way as to ignore decades of research and debate about the ways in which dependency on the government breeds unemployment and multi-generational families mired in poverty.

That’s why the need for pushback on the slurs aimed at Ryan is so important. For decades, fear of telling the truth about the social pathologies bred by big government was assumed to be a permanent obstacle that would prevent change. The racism canard constituted the third rail of American politics that even reform-minded Republicans feared to touch. But by the ’90s, even many liberals understood the system was unsustainable. The passage of welfare reform was an acknowledgement on the part of Democrats that New Deal and Great Society liberalism had flaws that could no longer be ignored. But the shift left under Obama has given some liberals the belief that they can recreate the politics of the past and undo everything Moynihan and Clinton had done to change the national conversation about welfare and poverty. Instead of taking into account the way government policies create havoc for society and the poor, we may go back to the old liberal shibboleths that assume that throwing more money at a problem is the only solution and that the state can do no wrong.

What is at stake here is something far bigger than Paul Ryan’s political prospects. The future of generations of poor Americans trapped by government dependency hangs in the balance if the amnesia about the welfare state that is the foundation of the attacks on Ryan spread. Fair-minded Democrats who remember the cost to the country and to the poor, including so many minority families from an unrestrained welfare state, need to join with conservatives and restore some sanity as well as historical memory to this debate.

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Why Liberals Won’t Face Facts on Detroit

After the initial shock, liberals have responded to Detroit’s bankruptcy crisis with their usual vigor while attempting to answer conservatives who have rightly asserted that what happened to the Motor City was an inevitable result of liberal policies. What’s more, some, like Steven Ratner in the New York Times, are claiming that rather than forcing the city to face the consequences of misgovernment and reckless spending, the federal government should step in and bail the city out in much the same way it did with the auto industry. If, as I wrote last Friday, most Americans were under the impression last November that Barack Obama had already “saved Detroit” from the bankruptcy that he claimed Mitt Romney wanted to force upon it, the goal now should be to finish the job. But while that dubious proposal is at least rooted in a sense of obligation to the beleaguered retirees and workers of Detroit who are the chief victims of this debacle, Times columnist Paul Krugman is unafraid to confront conservative doomsayers head on and declare the whole thing an insignificant blip on the radar.

While Krugman is dismissed by many on the right as an ideological extremist, his point of view about the mess actually goes straight to the heart of not only the crisis in Detroit but the impending tragedy of debt that threatens every other American city and municipality. If liberals won’t face facts about Detroit, it is not because they aren’t paying attention so much as because they see the sea of debt that their policies have created as merely the natural order of things that must be accepted. As far as he is concerned, if some people are talking about Detroit being “the new Greece,” that ought to be a signal for Democrats to stop listening because he doesn’t even think the problems of that bankrupt European nation are worth worrying about. The “deficit scolds” that he now regularly flays from his perch at the Times and his sinecure at Princeton University are, he says, trying to sell the country on an austerity mindset that is not only wrong but unnecessary. But try as he might, the example of liberal governance that Detroit (and Greece) provides shows that the liberal social welfare project is a one-way path to insolvency with desperate consequences not only for taxpayers and bondholders but to the ordinary citizens that liberals purport to want to help.

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After the initial shock, liberals have responded to Detroit’s bankruptcy crisis with their usual vigor while attempting to answer conservatives who have rightly asserted that what happened to the Motor City was an inevitable result of liberal policies. What’s more, some, like Steven Ratner in the New York Times, are claiming that rather than forcing the city to face the consequences of misgovernment and reckless spending, the federal government should step in and bail the city out in much the same way it did with the auto industry. If, as I wrote last Friday, most Americans were under the impression last November that Barack Obama had already “saved Detroit” from the bankruptcy that he claimed Mitt Romney wanted to force upon it, the goal now should be to finish the job. But while that dubious proposal is at least rooted in a sense of obligation to the beleaguered retirees and workers of Detroit who are the chief victims of this debacle, Times columnist Paul Krugman is unafraid to confront conservative doomsayers head on and declare the whole thing an insignificant blip on the radar.

While Krugman is dismissed by many on the right as an ideological extremist, his point of view about the mess actually goes straight to the heart of not only the crisis in Detroit but the impending tragedy of debt that threatens every other American city and municipality. If liberals won’t face facts about Detroit, it is not because they aren’t paying attention so much as because they see the sea of debt that their policies have created as merely the natural order of things that must be accepted. As far as he is concerned, if some people are talking about Detroit being “the new Greece,” that ought to be a signal for Democrats to stop listening because he doesn’t even think the problems of that bankrupt European nation are worth worrying about. The “deficit scolds” that he now regularly flays from his perch at the Times and his sinecure at Princeton University are, he says, trying to sell the country on an austerity mindset that is not only wrong but unnecessary. But try as he might, the example of liberal governance that Detroit (and Greece) provides shows that the liberal social welfare project is a one-way path to insolvency with desperate consequences not only for taxpayers and bondholders but to the ordinary citizens that liberals purport to want to help.

Rather than confront the problem, Krugman merely says what happened in Detroit is “one of those things” that just happen in a market economy that always creates victims. He also claims that the underfunded pension obligations that threaten the future of virtually ever state, city, and municipal government in the country are no big deal. The trillion-dollar shortfall may strike Krugman as a mere detail, but Detroit may be just the first of many other large cities that will find themselves in similar predicaments. As Nicole Gelinas writes today in the New York Post, even New York, which unlike Detroit faced and overcame not altogether dissimilar problems involving debt and urban blight in the last generation, may eventually be put in the same position unless something is done to deal with a bill for retiree medical benefits that dwarfs that of Detroit. Though, as she points out, New York has a smaller bond debt, Detroit’s sea of red ink was created by a similar confidence that they could keep borrowing money indefinitely.

Krugman is right to say that there are always winners and losers in a free economy. Every city has its own story and Detroit’s is one that is particularly heavy on bad luck as well as mismanagement. But his Adam Smith-style warning that anyone could wind up being the buggy-whip manufacturer of the future ignores the factor that powerful unions and their political protectors play in exacerbating such problems. His claim that Detroit’s situation is the result of chance rather than primarily the result of “fiscal irresponsibility and/or greedy public employees” simply isn’t credible.

A bailout of Detroit sets a precedent that can’t be repeated elsewhere because there just isn’t enough money to pay for every city that will eventually face similar problems. The wake up call that Detroit is sending Americans is one Krugman and other liberals would like us to ignore because they are confident that the federal leviathan, controlled by Democrats and fed by liberal assumptions, will always be able to squeeze enough cash out of productive citizens to pay for the left’s follies. They won’t face the truth about this because to do so would require Americans to do some hard thinking about a society where virtually everyone has their snouts in the collective trough of big government and thereby is a stakeholder in its survival in its current form. But what Greece showed Europe and what Detroit tells Americans is that sooner or later the well of public funds will run dry if obligations to liberal constituent groups continue to grow unchecked. And when that happens it is exactly the little guys who are hurting in Detroit who will be forced to suffer for Krugman’s ideology.

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The Minimum Wage Folly

There are few policy prescriptions dearer to the hearts of liberals than the minimum wage. In theory it provides a “living wage” to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid and what could be wrong with that? Indeed, argue against it and the average liberal will look at you as though you were Mr. Bumble dismissing Oliver Twist’s request for some more porridge.

The concept dates back to the 1890’s when it was first used in Australia and New Zealand. American states first set minimum wage requirements in 1912, although the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional as an impairment of contract. The federal minimum wage appeared in 1938 and has been raised erratically ever since to keep pace with inflation. The New York Times on Sunday had a lead editorial calling for a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour, a whopping 24 percent increase. Paul Krugman chimed in the same day with a theoretical justification. He admits that it runs contrary to economic theory:

The question we need to ask is: Would this be good policy? And the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a clear yes. Why “surprisingly”? Well, Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook — mine included — lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems. But that’s not what’s on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.

In other words, Professor Krugman is at odds with columnist Krugman, hardly for the first time.

But is it good public policy? I side with Professor Krugman.

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There are few policy prescriptions dearer to the hearts of liberals than the minimum wage. In theory it provides a “living wage” to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid and what could be wrong with that? Indeed, argue against it and the average liberal will look at you as though you were Mr. Bumble dismissing Oliver Twist’s request for some more porridge.

The concept dates back to the 1890’s when it was first used in Australia and New Zealand. American states first set minimum wage requirements in 1912, although the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional as an impairment of contract. The federal minimum wage appeared in 1938 and has been raised erratically ever since to keep pace with inflation. The New York Times on Sunday had a lead editorial calling for a raise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour, a whopping 24 percent increase. Paul Krugman chimed in the same day with a theoretical justification. He admits that it runs contrary to economic theory:

The question we need to ask is: Would this be good policy? And the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a clear yes. Why “surprisingly”? Well, Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook — mine included — lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems. But that’s not what’s on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.

In other words, Professor Krugman is at odds with columnist Krugman, hardly for the first time.

But is it good public policy? I side with Professor Krugman.

Like rent control, the minimum wage is price fixing, setting the minimum price at which labor can be hired, just as rent control sets the maximum price at which living space can be rented. Both of these ideas are rooted in a pernicious medieval notion called the just price, the idea that everything has a proper price, one at harmony with the universe. But there is no more any such thing as a just price than there is a just temperature for a Sunday afternoon in April. Both result from the interaction of natural forces, with a result that we can like or dislike but have to accept.

Labor is a commodity, just like anything else bought and sold in the marketplace, from legal services to pork bellies. And economies consist of the exchange of commodities to the benefit of both parties. So if the employer cannot receive from an unskilled employee work worth what he is required to be paid, the employer will not hire him. No one, after all, willingly trades a ten-dollar bill for a five. 

Very few minimum-wage workers are heads of household. Most are teenagers just entering the jobs market or earning extra money after school. And teenage unemployment right now is horrendous, 23.4 percent. To raise the minimum wage by 24 percent is to guarantee that that rate will rise.

So why do liberal politicians like the minimum wage concept so much? There are two basic reasons. One is that many labor union contracts specify wage rates that are multiples of the minimum wage. Raise the latter, and you raise the former, much to the benefit of the unions that so generously fund Democratic candidates. The other is that the minimum wage is a benefit that politicians don’t have to pay for. Essentially, the politician gets to say, “See A over here? He needs help. You, B, pay him more money.” He then points to himself and says, “And you, A, don’t forget where the money came from on Election Day.”

Is there a better solution? Sure, there’s one already in place, the Earned Income Tax Credit. It is a refundable tax credit that is paid to low wage individual workers (principally those with qualifying children), raising their living standard by multiplying their earned income. Employers get to pay the market wage for labor, workers get to learn skills and experience the dignity of work. The problem, of course, is that the EITC adds to total federal outlays and thus the deficit.

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Alfred E. Neuman, Scarlett O’Hara, and Wilkens Micawber Advise Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is in a channeling frenzy in today’s column, entitled “The Dwindling Deficit.” His inner Alfred E. Neuman says, ‘What, me worry?”:

The budget deficit isn’t our biggest problem, by a long shot. Furthermore, it’s a problem that is already, to a large degree, solved. The medium-term budget outlook isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either — and the long-term outlook gets much more attention than it should.

Who knew? He argues that economic recovery will raise federal revenues and decrease such costs as unemployment and food stamps. That’s usually true enough, except we’ve been in “recovery” since June 2009 and it hasn’t helped yet. Budget deficits for the last four fiscal years were $1.41 trillion (2009), $1.29 trillion, $1.3 trillion, and $1.08 trillion.

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Paul Krugman is in a channeling frenzy in today’s column, entitled “The Dwindling Deficit.” His inner Alfred E. Neuman says, ‘What, me worry?”:

The budget deficit isn’t our biggest problem, by a long shot. Furthermore, it’s a problem that is already, to a large degree, solved. The medium-term budget outlook isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either — and the long-term outlook gets much more attention than it should.

Who knew? He argues that economic recovery will raise federal revenues and decrease such costs as unemployment and food stamps. That’s usually true enough, except we’ve been in “recovery” since June 2009 and it hasn’t helped yet. Budget deficits for the last four fiscal years were $1.41 trillion (2009), $1.29 trillion, $1.3 trillion, and $1.08 trillion.

The administration shows no sign of pushing activities that would have an immediate positive effect on the economy, such as encouraging new oil and gas production, and many signs that it intends to continue its crony capitalist “investments” in green energy, which have been an expensive bust.

A slew of new regulations on business, and tens of thousands of pages more to come with Obamacare and Dodd Frank, will not speed up the recovery. Neither will higher taxes on capital gains and dividends. And the Fed will have to at some point start reining in the money creation (euphemistically termed quantitative easing) that is currently keeping interest rates historically low. That means the cost of servicing the debt will go up. Each one-percent rise in interest rates that the government has to pay raises annual interest costs $160 billion.

Krugman writes that, “. . . the budget outlook for the next 10 years doesn’t look at all alarming.”  Of course, the budget outlook in 2000 foresaw nothing but budget surpluses for the next ten years.  Krugman explains that, “George W. Bush squandered the Clinton surplus on tax cuts and wars.” (There were no Clinton surpluses, in fact, just phony accounting that called money borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund income. But let that go.) It was the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000 and the ensuing recession—which began on Clinton’s watch—that caused the “surpluses” to disappear. As for those tax cuts, they were nothing but a giveaway to the rich until, this year, they suddenly became vital to the middle class.

Most egregiously, he writes with regard to Social Security, “At this point, ‘reform’ proposals are all about things like raising the retirement age or changing the inflation adjustment, moves that would gradually reduce benefits relative to current law. What problem is this supposed to solve?”

Ummmm, perhaps the problem pointed out by the Social Security Administration itself that the system will run out of money in 2037? That’s not an economic projection; it’s a demographic one. All those who will be on Social Security in 2037 are, at least, now in their forties.

But Krugman, like, Scarlett O’Hara, wants to think about that tomorrow: “by moving too soon we might lock in benefit cuts that turn out not to have been necessary. And much the same logic applies to Medicare [now scheduled to go broke by 2024]. So there’s a reasonable argument for leaving the question of how to deal with future problems up to future politicians.”

Like Krugman, Wilkens Micawber, was quite certain that “something will turn up.” At least he was until the police turned up and he was arrested for debt.

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Krugman’s Self-Parody

I rarely agree with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, but he spoke the truth when he wrote yesterday on his blog at the paper that the notion of President Obama appointing him to the post of treasury secretary was a “bad idea.” The economy is in bad enough shape as it is without exacerbating our problems by putting a doctrinaire liberal like Krugman in the position once held by Alexander Hamilton. But what is interesting about the question of Krugman’s future plans is not so much the negligible merits of the proposal but the idea that anyone other than the columnist and a few of his devoted readers who signed a petition to the effect ever considered it for a moment.

It is to be expected that those who have attained the lofty status held by the Times’s op-ed gods live in something like a bubble. That is especially true for those columnists who regularly appeal to the ideological prejudices of the paper’s core readership, as Krugman does. It is to be imagined that some of (as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto likes to call him) the former Enron advisor’s fans really do believe he should be running the country’s finances. But it takes a special kind of egotism, if not hubris, for a writer—even one with a position at Princeton University and a Nobel Prize—to take such babblings seriously enough to write a straight-faced post about why they wouldn’t deign to sit at the cabinet table with the president of the United States. The result is a self-parody that provides a cringe-inducing explanation about why he thinks he is too important to accept the position. Even Krugman’s greatest admirers had to be left scratching their heads.

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I rarely agree with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, but he spoke the truth when he wrote yesterday on his blog at the paper that the notion of President Obama appointing him to the post of treasury secretary was a “bad idea.” The economy is in bad enough shape as it is without exacerbating our problems by putting a doctrinaire liberal like Krugman in the position once held by Alexander Hamilton. But what is interesting about the question of Krugman’s future plans is not so much the negligible merits of the proposal but the idea that anyone other than the columnist and a few of his devoted readers who signed a petition to the effect ever considered it for a moment.

It is to be expected that those who have attained the lofty status held by the Times’s op-ed gods live in something like a bubble. That is especially true for those columnists who regularly appeal to the ideological prejudices of the paper’s core readership, as Krugman does. It is to be imagined that some of (as the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto likes to call him) the former Enron advisor’s fans really do believe he should be running the country’s finances. But it takes a special kind of egotism, if not hubris, for a writer—even one with a position at Princeton University and a Nobel Prize—to take such babblings seriously enough to write a straight-faced post about why they wouldn’t deign to sit at the cabinet table with the president of the United States. The result is a self-parody that provides a cringe-inducing explanation about why he thinks he is too important to accept the position. Even Krugman’s greatest admirers had to be left scratching their heads.

It is always a bad sign when a writer bothers to respond publicly to their hate mail. Criticism, even of the unreasonable kind, goes with the territory and those who whine on-line or in print about people writing mean things to them are self-indulgent bores. But it is even worse when a columnist starts writing about his fan mail in a manner that telegraphs their belief that no praise and no public responsibility or honor is too great for them.

Krugman writes:

Being an op-ed columnist at the Times is a pretty big deal — one I’m immensely grateful to have been granted — and those who hold the position, if they know how to use it effectively, have a lot more influence on national debate than, say, most senators. Does anyone doubt that the White House pays attention to what I write?

This is an appalling read but this sort of thing is more than merely a testimony to his self-infatuation. One has to have a healthy ego to write opinions but a degree of humility is just as essential. If Krugman were to write that it is a lot more fun writing about policy than making it, he’d be on firm ground. But to speak of himself in a manner which leads us to believe he thinks he’s too valuable to the country at the Times to consider going to the president’s rescue shows that the frayed cords that tethered his ego to reality have completely unraveled.

I disagree with Krugman’s liberal ideology and think most of his ideas are wrong but anyone—even a conservative with whom I agreed all the time—who wrote about himself in this manner would have demonstrated such terrible judgment so as to cause me to doubt whether I should really bother to pay attention to him anymore.

I don’t know how regularly the folks in the White House peruse Krugman’s columns and blogs, but I’m willing to bet they all had a good chuckle when this piece was forwarded around the West Wing. One wonders whether Krugman is so far gone as to be unable to hear its echoes around the country.

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It’s Paul Krugman on Line Two, Calling With More Free Advice

At the London Review of Books, of all places, Christian Lorentzen has a less-than-admiring portrait of Paul Krugman, who was in London in May plugging his latest book. Krugman went on the BBC’s “Hardtalk” to take questions from journalist Sarah Montague:

A strange theatre ensues whenever Krugman is engaged by a journalist rather than a peer with similar expertise or a politician with actual if undeserved authority. The journalist reminds him of the people who’ve dismissed his ideas and he just shakes his head and says these Very Serious People are wrong. When the journalist goes the other way and flatters him, his ego creeps out:

Montague: If you were advising the Greek government now, what would you say to them?

Krugman: Ah well, you know, I’ve actually had conversations, not with them, but you know, with European politicians.

Montague: With whom?

Krugman: Um, I can’t tell you that.

Montague: But has there been a European government that’s asked for your advice?

Krugman: No, no, I’ve just had conversations.

His face takes on a pained expression, he stammers, puts his finger to his cheek, and for a moment shuts his eyes. You get the sense he’s thinking, why am I not in charge? There’s something sad about the spectacle.

It is, as James Taranto might say, the sad spectacle of a former Enron adviser.

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At the London Review of Books, of all places, Christian Lorentzen has a less-than-admiring portrait of Paul Krugman, who was in London in May plugging his latest book. Krugman went on the BBC’s “Hardtalk” to take questions from journalist Sarah Montague:

A strange theatre ensues whenever Krugman is engaged by a journalist rather than a peer with similar expertise or a politician with actual if undeserved authority. The journalist reminds him of the people who’ve dismissed his ideas and he just shakes his head and says these Very Serious People are wrong. When the journalist goes the other way and flatters him, his ego creeps out:

Montague: If you were advising the Greek government now, what would you say to them?

Krugman: Ah well, you know, I’ve actually had conversations, not with them, but you know, with European politicians.

Montague: With whom?

Krugman: Um, I can’t tell you that.

Montague: But has there been a European government that’s asked for your advice?

Krugman: No, no, I’ve just had conversations.

His face takes on a pained expression, he stammers, puts his finger to his cheek, and for a moment shuts his eyes. You get the sense he’s thinking, why am I not in charge? There’s something sad about the spectacle.

It is, as James Taranto might say, the sad spectacle of a former Enron adviser.

Krugman went on another show to argue against Jon Moulton, chairman of Better Capital, and Andrea Leadsom, a Tory MP and former banker. Lorentzen recounts the following exchange:

“I find his view reckless, frankly,” Leadsom said, “I can’t believe that somebody as incredibly highly regarded as you could honestly think that the answer is to go and borrow more money.” Krugman told her she was confusing an economy with a household.

Late yesterday afternoon, Krugman posted a mini-classic of Krugmanesque analysis on his New York Times blog. It seems “totally obvious to me,” he wrote, that economists and Fed officials are making erroneous assumptions “without realizing it.” They’re making “exactly the same mistake” he demonstrated in 1998 with a chart. We should “pursue unconventional policies on a sufficient scale,” by which I think he means going out and borrowing a lot more money: totally obvious to him.

Back in Europe, a lot of countries are learning that the comparison of a country’s budget to that of a household is not quite as irrelevant as Krugman suggested. In fact, for some of them, the analogy may now be totally obvious.

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Liberals’ Civility Test

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

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Will Rewriting History Silence Conservatives?

Chris Matthews writes in the Washington Post about the friendship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. Matthews wants us to believe that those were the Good Old Days, years characterized by civility and comity among political opponents, an era when high-minded disagreements were stated in the most irenic way possible.

In short, a time when after-hours lions and lambs laid down beside each other.

Steven Hayward does us a public service by reminding us of what things were really like, with O’Neill saying, among other things, that “evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”

To Hayward’s examples I would add a January 30, 1984, Associated Press story, which reported this: “Ronald Reagan has been a divider, not a uniter. He has divided our country between rich and poor, between the hopeful and the hopeless, between the comfortable and the miserable. He has not been fair and the people know it. The American people will reject four more years of danger, four more years of pain,’ [Thomas P.] O’Neill said.”

Ronald Reagan was, in fact, a deeply hated figure by liberals when he was president.

The effort to pretty up the past is not simply evidence of nostalgia or selective memories. It is an effort by liberals to portray this current moment in our history, when conservatives have, for the first time, a wide array of media outlets at their disposal, as a period of unprecedented incivility. The unstated argument goes like this: for the first time in modern history, conservatives dominate a few media precincts (cable news and talk radio). It is also a period of vitriolic public discourse, unmatched in the annals of American history. We’ll leave it to you, the American voters, to connect the dots.

In fact, liberals are inventing a false correlation in order to assert a false causation.

And it’s an easy enough one to disprove. Those who lived through the 1980s merely need to dust off their own memories or read contemporaneous news accounts from that period (at the New York Times, the predecessor of Frank Rich and Paul Krugman was Anthony Lewis). An older generation can do the same thing for the 1970s, when Richard Nixon was a reviled figure by the left; and the 1960s, when there were riots in the streets and on American campuses and students chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

This is simply part of an ongoing effort by liberals to disfigure American history in order to advance their post-Tucson fairy tale. It’s really quite regrettable — and, because it’s untrue, I rather doubt it will work.

Chris Matthews writes in the Washington Post about the friendship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. Matthews wants us to believe that those were the Good Old Days, years characterized by civility and comity among political opponents, an era when high-minded disagreements were stated in the most irenic way possible.

In short, a time when after-hours lions and lambs laid down beside each other.

Steven Hayward does us a public service by reminding us of what things were really like, with O’Neill saying, among other things, that “evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.”

To Hayward’s examples I would add a January 30, 1984, Associated Press story, which reported this: “Ronald Reagan has been a divider, not a uniter. He has divided our country between rich and poor, between the hopeful and the hopeless, between the comfortable and the miserable. He has not been fair and the people know it. The American people will reject four more years of danger, four more years of pain,’ [Thomas P.] O’Neill said.”

Ronald Reagan was, in fact, a deeply hated figure by liberals when he was president.

The effort to pretty up the past is not simply evidence of nostalgia or selective memories. It is an effort by liberals to portray this current moment in our history, when conservatives have, for the first time, a wide array of media outlets at their disposal, as a period of unprecedented incivility. The unstated argument goes like this: for the first time in modern history, conservatives dominate a few media precincts (cable news and talk radio). It is also a period of vitriolic public discourse, unmatched in the annals of American history. We’ll leave it to you, the American voters, to connect the dots.

In fact, liberals are inventing a false correlation in order to assert a false causation.

And it’s an easy enough one to disprove. Those who lived through the 1980s merely need to dust off their own memories or read contemporaneous news accounts from that period (at the New York Times, the predecessor of Frank Rich and Paul Krugman was Anthony Lewis). An older generation can do the same thing for the 1970s, when Richard Nixon was a reviled figure by the left; and the 1960s, when there were riots in the streets and on American campuses and students chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

This is simply part of an ongoing effort by liberals to disfigure American history in order to advance their post-Tucson fairy tale. It’s really quite regrettable — and, because it’s untrue, I rather doubt it will work.

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Iowahawk Does It Again

The Internet’s greatest humorist offers up CSI: Tucson, starring Paul Krugman, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow, with special guest forensic OB-GYN Andrew Sullivan.

The Internet’s greatest humorist offers up CSI: Tucson, starring Paul Krugman, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow, with special guest forensic OB-GYN Andrew Sullivan.

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The Liberal Mind at Work (Warning: It Isn’t Pretty)

From Paul Krugman’s column in today’s Times:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

In others words, you are either a liberal or you’re Ebenezer Scrooge. No middle ground: there are only good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats. If you are opposed to liberal means to provide a social safety net, then you’re opposed to a social safety net, period. Let little old ladies eat cat food, let the uninsured die in the streets, because only New Deal–style programs can stop that from happening.

Is it within the imagination of a Nobel Prize winner in economics that there might be a better way to secure people in their old age than taxing them, investing the money in low-yield government bonds, and having Congress hand out election-year goodies that make the system unsustainable? Can he even conceive of a better way to insure people for medical care than to tax them and turn the funds over to a bureaucracy that has a 45-year track record of spectacular management incompetence that no for-profit company could possibly have survived and whose books are such a mess as to be unauditable? Can the power of self-interest (the engine behind capitalism’s success) never be utilized to help provide the social safety net that most people, left and right, think necessary and proper, at lower cost and with better results?

Apparently not. For the Paul Krugmans of the body politic, made blind by a religious adherence to a creed outworn, no idea that postdates FDR can be tolerated. No fresh thinking allowed, please, we’re liberals.

From Paul Krugman’s column in today’s Times:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

In others words, you are either a liberal or you’re Ebenezer Scrooge. No middle ground: there are only good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats. If you are opposed to liberal means to provide a social safety net, then you’re opposed to a social safety net, period. Let little old ladies eat cat food, let the uninsured die in the streets, because only New Deal–style programs can stop that from happening.

Is it within the imagination of a Nobel Prize winner in economics that there might be a better way to secure people in their old age than taxing them, investing the money in low-yield government bonds, and having Congress hand out election-year goodies that make the system unsustainable? Can he even conceive of a better way to insure people for medical care than to tax them and turn the funds over to a bureaucracy that has a 45-year track record of spectacular management incompetence that no for-profit company could possibly have survived and whose books are such a mess as to be unauditable? Can the power of self-interest (the engine behind capitalism’s success) never be utilized to help provide the social safety net that most people, left and right, think necessary and proper, at lower cost and with better results?

Apparently not. For the Paul Krugmans of the body politic, made blind by a religious adherence to a creed outworn, no idea that postdates FDR can be tolerated. No fresh thinking allowed, please, we’re liberals.

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Krauthammer on Krugman

Sometimes, a future Hall of Fame pitcher is, during a key moment, asked to pitch out of rotation. So, too, with certain columnists.

Charles Krauthammer’s regular slot in the Washington Post is Friday — but he was moved up in order to address the liberal libel that the Tucson massacre was the result of a “climate of hate” created by conservatives. The result is a spectacularly good column. And it concludes with a devastating knockout of the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has earned the distinction of being the most scurrilous and irresponsible commentator on the Tucson killings (the competition was stiff).

“The origins of [Jared] Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness,” Krauthammer writes. “What are the origins of Krugman’s?”

An excellent question. And whatever the answer is, Paul Krugman — based on his grotesque conduct during the past five days and Krauthammer’s withering takedown — will not recover. He may continue to write, but he has become, in serious circles, an object of ridicule as well as contempt.

Sometimes, a future Hall of Fame pitcher is, during a key moment, asked to pitch out of rotation. So, too, with certain columnists.

Charles Krauthammer’s regular slot in the Washington Post is Friday — but he was moved up in order to address the liberal libel that the Tucson massacre was the result of a “climate of hate” created by conservatives. The result is a spectacularly good column. And it concludes with a devastating knockout of the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has earned the distinction of being the most scurrilous and irresponsible commentator on the Tucson killings (the competition was stiff).

“The origins of [Jared] Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness,” Krauthammer writes. “What are the origins of Krugman’s?”

An excellent question. And whatever the answer is, Paul Krugman — based on his grotesque conduct during the past five days and Krauthammer’s withering takedown — will not recover. He may continue to write, but he has become, in serious circles, an object of ridicule as well as contempt.

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Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

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Why the Arizona Massacre Is Fodder for Liberal Attacks

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it. Read More

Even before most of the country had even learned the facts of the Arizona massacre on Saturday, the headline on the homepage of the New York Times website proclaimed that “In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions,” even though the publication of this story preceded most of the accusations of conservative responsibility for the attack that were soon heard on the left. In other words, the Times and other media outlets that immediately adopted this frame of reference for viewing the massacre were shaping the discussion about the event more than they were actually reporting it.

In the days since then, the evidence for any political motivation that could be attached to Loughner has been shown to be completely lacking. His bizarre behavior and beliefs are the stuff that speaks of mental illness, not overheated politics. But that did not stop the avalanche of libelous accusations of ultimate conservative responsibility.

To seize upon just one of the most egregious examples, the Times’s Paul Krugman claimed today that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “Climate of Hate” created by conservatives. Yes, this is the same columnist who wrote in 2009 that progressives should “hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of his opposition (albeit temporary) to ObamaCare. But just as those who accuse conservatives of spewing hate that leads to violence ignore the daily provocations of TV talkers like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, just as they ignored the unprecedented hate directed at President Bush, the Times Nobel Laureate thinks his own direct call for violence against Lieberman also doesn’t count.

Even worse, the facts about Loughner have not deterred the news departments of these media giants — as opposed to the opinion-slingers like Krugman — from reporting the story as one in which the right is guilty until proven innocent. For example, this afternoon the Times published a story that centered on the charge that conservative talk-show hosts were put in the dock as accessories to the crime while they “reject blame.” The same day, Politico led off with a story that claimed that the “Tucson shooting marks turning point for Sarah Palin,” which took it as a given that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate’s future political career would forever be tainted by the Arizona shooting in spite of the fact that she had nothing to do with it.

In the face of such deliberate distortions, we are forced to ask ourselves what lies behind these editorial decisions. The answer is fairly simple. The reason the editors of the Times and Politico have chosen to slant the reporting of the massacre in this fashion is that it reflects their own politically biased views about conservatives. They didn’t wait for some proof of Loughner’s political motivations to allege that, in some inchoate way, right-wing views influenced his criminally insane behavior and that conservatives would have to pay a political price simply because that was their immediate assumption. That is, after all, how liberal media elites think of conservatives. Indeed, if you read only the New York Times, the results of the November election would have come as a shock because the Gray Lady and other liberal-establishment forums consistently represented those protesters as a marginal outcropping of crazed extremists, not a genuinely grass-roots popular movement that expressed the anger of a large percentage of Americans about the excesses of both the Obama administration and the liberal Congress that stuffed an unpopular health-care bill down the throat of the country.

For the past two years, many newspapers and broadcast outlets attempted to falsely portray the Tea Party as a hate group that has uniquely debased the tenor of political debate in the country. So it should not surprise us that the same people are today trying to forge a fictitious link between Loughner and Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party.

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Bush’s Book Triumph

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, President George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, has sold 2 million copies since it was released early last month. By way of comparison, President Clinton’s memoir, My Life, has sold 2.2 million since it was published in 2004. A spokesman for Crown, which published Decision Points, called the performance “remarkable” and said that he could not think of any other non-fiction hardback book that has sold even a million copies in 2010.

At the end of the Bush presidency, some people argued that no publisher worth its salt would publish Bush’s memoir — and if it did, Bush should be paid much less than Clinton. The argument was that Bush was terribly unpopular and no one would have any interest in revisiting the Bush years. There was even speculation by a few that if Decision Points leaked out prior to the 2010 mid-term election, it would damage GOP prospects of taking back the House. And there were even a few who believed that Democrats who ran against Mr. Bush after his presidency would triumph (for example, the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman thought running against Bush would be the path to victory for Jon Corzine against Chris Christie).

All of this turned out to be complete nonsense. President Bush’s memoir is extremely well done, particularly for a presidential memoir (they tend to be poorly written and not terribly revealing). It provides readers with keen insights into the decision-making process that defined the Bush presidency, from stem cells to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Freedom Agenda to AIDS and malaria initiatives and much more.

As has often been the case with this two-term president, Mr. Bush’s critics misunderestimated him. His presidency is in the process of undergoing a significant reevaluation; the success of Decision Points is simply more testimony to this.

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, President George W. Bush’s book, Decision Points, has sold 2 million copies since it was released early last month. By way of comparison, President Clinton’s memoir, My Life, has sold 2.2 million since it was published in 2004. A spokesman for Crown, which published Decision Points, called the performance “remarkable” and said that he could not think of any other non-fiction hardback book that has sold even a million copies in 2010.

At the end of the Bush presidency, some people argued that no publisher worth its salt would publish Bush’s memoir — and if it did, Bush should be paid much less than Clinton. The argument was that Bush was terribly unpopular and no one would have any interest in revisiting the Bush years. There was even speculation by a few that if Decision Points leaked out prior to the 2010 mid-term election, it would damage GOP prospects of taking back the House. And there were even a few who believed that Democrats who ran against Mr. Bush after his presidency would triumph (for example, the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman thought running against Bush would be the path to victory for Jon Corzine against Chris Christie).

All of this turned out to be complete nonsense. President Bush’s memoir is extremely well done, particularly for a presidential memoir (they tend to be poorly written and not terribly revealing). It provides readers with keen insights into the decision-making process that defined the Bush presidency, from stem cells to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Freedom Agenda to AIDS and malaria initiatives and much more.

As has often been the case with this two-term president, Mr. Bush’s critics misunderestimated him. His presidency is in the process of undergoing a significant reevaluation; the success of Decision Points is simply more testimony to this.

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Olbermann Pitches Fit Over Obama’s Tax-Cut Deal

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is really, really mad at President Obama for his deal with Republicans on taxes. Set aside, if you can, the melodrama, the ad hominem attacks on the GOP (“treacherous and traitorous”), and the reliance on Bartlett’s Quotations; Olbermann — like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman and  Frank Rich — reflects the sentiments of Mr. Obama’s hard-core liberal base. And it’s now on the warpath against him. See for yourself.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is really, really mad at President Obama for his deal with Republicans on taxes. Set aside, if you can, the melodrama, the ad hominem attacks on the GOP (“treacherous and traitorous”), and the reliance on Bartlett’s Quotations; Olbermann — like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman and  Frank Rich — reflects the sentiments of Mr. Obama’s hard-core liberal base. And it’s now on the warpath against him. See for yourself.

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The What-the-Hell Tax-Cut Deal

How to explain the extent to which Barack Obama moved toward a Republican position on the Bush tax cuts he clearly detests, especially considering a major, major cave-in on estate taxes? It can’t be because he so wanted the extension of unemployment benefits that he gave in over and over again. Nor can it be because he was so desperate for the one-year lowering of the payroll tax. That one sounds good and will put money in people’s hands, but it seems likely that Obama fought for it as some kind of fairness offset for keeping the “tax cut for the rich.” We know from the experience of one-year tax cuts in 2008 and 2009 that, as Milton Friedman’s “permanent income hypothesis” foresaw, it will have very little stimulative effect on the economy.

Here’s a theory: Obama said, “What the hell.” Once he knew he had to give in, and would get criticized for giving in, he figured he might as well go whole hog. The whole deal seems designed to test conservative arguments about how best to help the economy right now, with the understanding that if the economy improves markedly as a result, he will get more credit for his role from the independents he lost so decisively in the 2010 election. And if it doesn’t, then the GOP will be in the position he was in this year in relation to the stimulus — their desired policy won’t have worked either, and he won’t get blamed for acceding to political reality in going along with it.

Paul Krugman and the Nation and Moveon.org were going to be enraged no matter what compromise he struck. So…what the hell. Go long. Try the Hail Mary. Nothing Barack Obama could have done indicates just how empty his own economic policy quiver is.

How to explain the extent to which Barack Obama moved toward a Republican position on the Bush tax cuts he clearly detests, especially considering a major, major cave-in on estate taxes? It can’t be because he so wanted the extension of unemployment benefits that he gave in over and over again. Nor can it be because he was so desperate for the one-year lowering of the payroll tax. That one sounds good and will put money in people’s hands, but it seems likely that Obama fought for it as some kind of fairness offset for keeping the “tax cut for the rich.” We know from the experience of one-year tax cuts in 2008 and 2009 that, as Milton Friedman’s “permanent income hypothesis” foresaw, it will have very little stimulative effect on the economy.

Here’s a theory: Obama said, “What the hell.” Once he knew he had to give in, and would get criticized for giving in, he figured he might as well go whole hog. The whole deal seems designed to test conservative arguments about how best to help the economy right now, with the understanding that if the economy improves markedly as a result, he will get more credit for his role from the independents he lost so decisively in the 2010 election. And if it doesn’t, then the GOP will be in the position he was in this year in relation to the stimulus — their desired policy won’t have worked either, and he won’t get blamed for acceding to political reality in going along with it.

Paul Krugman and the Nation and Moveon.org were going to be enraged no matter what compromise he struck. So…what the hell. Go long. Try the Hail Mary. Nothing Barack Obama could have done indicates just how empty his own economic policy quiver is.

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Obama’s Progressives Problem

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

The split between President Obama and his liberal base continues to widen. Yesterday I wrote about the criticisms directed at the president by the New York Times‘s Paul Krugman. Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, has leveled his own blast in the Huffington Post.

According to Kuttner, “I cannot recall a president who generated so much excitement as a candidate but who turned out to be such a political dud as chief executive.” Like many of his co-ideologists, Kuttner pins much of the blame on Obama’s failure to communicate just how dreadful the GOP is. The president didn’t sufficiently frighten voters enough. Mr. Obama, who during the 2010 campaign referred to his opponents as “enemies,” wasn’t enough of a “fighter.” The losses among seniors was “sheer political malpractice” and “just stupefying.”

Obama is “fast becoming more albatross than ally,” according to Kuttner, who believes the task of progressives is to “step into the leadership vacuum that Obama has left, and fashion a compelling narrative about who and what are destroying America.” He hopes progressives can “move from disillusion to action and offer the kind of political movement and counter-narrative that the President should have been leading.”

Mr. Kuttner’s counsel is wrong on several different levels. The problem Democrats faced was not (as many of us continue to point out) a communications problem; it was a facts-on-the-ground problem, a governing problem. By a wide margin, the public believes the country is on the wrong track and has lost considerable confidence in Obama’s agenda and ability to lead. The president has compounded his problems by incompetence.

But Kuttner is kidding himself if he thinks progressives can create a “counter-narrative” and fill the “leadership vacuum” that Obama has left. For good or ill, the president is the face of a party and, in the case of Obama, a movement (liberalism). So long as he occupies the Oval Office, no compelling counter-narrative is possible. With one exception: a challenge to Obama from the left.

Kuttner doubts such a challenge makes much sense, and I happen to agree with him. But clearly his head is overruling his heart, at least for now. Here’s the thing to watch for, though: the left’s unhappiness with Obama is likely to accelerate rather than decelerate, in part because Obama’s most liberal days as president are behind him and in part because, in Kuttner’s words, “as President Obama gears up for a re-election battle in 2012, the economy is unlikely to be much different than the one that sank the Democrats in 2010.”

If those two conditions are in place, liberal disenchantment with Obama, which is on the rise, will explode. Their hearts will overrule their heads. Progressives will be desperate to detach themselves from Obama. And out of this could emerge a primary challenger. Right now, that’s not a likelihood; but I suspect we’re closer to that point than many people now assume.

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RE: Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] 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.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] 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.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

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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.

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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