Paul Krugman is at it again. He makes some bizarre assumptions in today’s column. He correctly summarizes the present political landscape thusly: “the public appears fed up not just with President Bush, but with his party.” So far, so good. But then he follows up with this whopper:
Unless Hillary Clinton wins big on Tuesday, Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. And he’s not at all the kind of candidate one might have expected to emerge out of the backlash against Republican governance.
Huh? Why is Obama “not at all the kind of candidate one might have expected to emerge out of the backlash against Republican governance”? He’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime candidate, so in that sense he might not be “expected,” but otherwise, huh?
Krugman backs this up with two curious claims. The first:
… contrary to claims by both supporters and opponents, (Obama’s) voting record places him, with Senator Clinton, more or less in the center of the Democratic Party, rather than in its progressive wing.
This throws out Obama’s legislative record in Illinois, and hilzoy has a different interpretation (hint: actual research was involved, the kind Krugman can’t find in his ass) of Obama’s legislative work in the U.S. Senate.
Curious claim #2:
But Mr. Obama, instead of emphasizing the harm done by the other party’s rule, likes to blame both sides for our sorry political state.
Ahh, I think I get it. Krugman is under-interpreting “the backlash.” He thinks the backlash is exclusively against Republicans. Oh, my. Who’s gonna tell him?
That — along with his adoption of conservative talking points on the crucial issue of health care — is why Mr. Obama’s rise has caused such division among progressive activists, the very people one might have expected to be unified and energized by the prospect of finally ending the long era of Republican political dominance.
Krugman is a bark eater about healthcare reform. He objects to Obama not including a wall-to-wall mandate, which he brands a conservative talking point. I don’t recall the Republican candidates for president talking about healthcare at all, except for disparaging something called Hillarycare.
And division among progressive activists? I’m not seeing it. Sure, there are the bark eaters like Krugman who will wail to the moon if the Democratic nominee doesn’t toe their line about __________, but all in all I think most progressives are very much excited by Obama’s candidacy. Sure, they’re a jaded lot, Democrats have let them down time and again (see the Clinton presidency), but I think most progressives are shocked at their good fortune. Obama has the chops, unlike John Kerry, Gore 1.0, Michael Dukakis …
The trouble is that faith in Mr. Obama’s transformational ability rests on surprisingly little evidence.
To believe Krugman requires a greater suspension of disbelief than it takes to believe Obama. But then again, I actually take into consideration Obama’s record in Illinois, something Krugman is apparently incapable of doing (fairly).
Bob Somerby of the media-criticism site dailyhowler.com predicts that Mr. Obama will be “Dukakised”: “treated as an alien, unsettling presence.” That sounds all too plausible.
Sure, Dukakis has a funny name, but the guy does not come close to having the political skills Obama possesses (plus, Dukakis is short, very short, while Obama is tall, very tall). Obama is a decent debater, but nobody would accuse him of being a great at it. Still, consider how he would handle a debate question Dukakis famously fumbled:
BERNARD SHAW: You have two minutes to respond. Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
MICHAEL DUKAKIS: No, I don’t, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We’ve done so in my own state. And it’s one of the reasons why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial state in America; why we have the lowest murder rate of any industrial state in America. But we have work to do in this nation. We have work to do to fight a real war, not a phony war, against drugs. And that’s something I want to lead, something we haven’t had over the course of the past many years, even though the Vice President has been at least allegedly in charge of that war. We have much to do to step up that war, to double the number of drug enforcement agents, to fight both here and abroad, to work with our neighbors in this hemisphere. And I want to call a hemispheric summit just as soon after the 20th of January as possible to fight that war. But we also have to deal with drug education prevention here at home. And that’s one of the things that I hope I can lead personally as the President of the United States. We’ve had great success in my own state. And we’ve reached out to young people and their families and been able to help them by beginning drug education and prevention in the early elementary grades. So we can fight this war, and we can win this war. And we can do so in a way that marshals our forces, that provides real support for state and local law enforcement officers who have not been getting that support, and do it in a way which will bring down violence in this nation, will help our youngsters to stay away from drugs, will stop this avalanche of drugs that’s pouring into the country, and will make it possible for our kids and our families to grow up in safe and secure and decent neighborhoods.
Dukakis couldn’t have responded with a more lifeless, remote, stale answer (he may have been technically right, but it’s best not in a presidential debate to get all technical about the imaginary rape and murder of your wife). And have you ever heard Dukakis give a speech?
Krugman ends with a thin, unfair representation of Obama’s record in Illinois, then throws up his hands, says if Obama wins all will be forgiven, but if he loses, he warns darkly,
… the recriminations could tear the party apart.
I’m game. If Obama loses, let’s tear apart the party. Maybe I’ll even go Green.
Yes, indeed, let’s rend the party asunder. Paul Krugman makes me think of the Oscar Wilde quotation that the most unforgiveable sin is a lack of imagination. Krugman is so utterly unimaginative that when something quite fanciful actually *happens,* he has to force it “more or less to the center” because he’s so afraid of breaking off the tree limb he’s hanging from so precariously (by his teeth). I just cannot respect this quality in Paul Krugman.