08 Oct 2014

Krugman the Shill

Foreign Policy, Krugman 7 Comments

[UPDATE: I keep forgetting that not everyone grew up in a household that had succumbed to the British invasion. I didn’t write the Krugman tribute song from scratch; I parodied this Buckingham’s classic. I love it when Krugman’s fans tell me my song “sucks,” apparently thinking I wrote the whole thing. They need to realize they are giving me way too much credit.]

Around the 35 second mark of my tribute, I point out that Paul Krugman is the top in his class:

Today I just saw another vindication of my label.

First, the context: Krugman called George W. Bush the arguably worst president in US history. And it wasn’t just about economics; Bush’s big sin was to lie the country into war in Iraq. OK, fair enough; I have no problem hammering Bush on foreign policy like that.

But what was odd is that Krugman never said a word about Obama’s foreign policy, even as more and more progressives (especially Glenn Greenwald who was heroic in this respect) have pointed out that Obama is actually worse on civil liberties and foreign policy than Bush, in several dimensions (though not all dimensions, to be sure). When I say Krugman “never said a word,” I don’t mean that as a rhetorical device; I literally could not remember him ever saying a single thing about Obama on NSA spying, drone assassinations of people on the secret kill list, new bombing campaigns, etc.

Well in Rolling Stone Krugman has an article defending Obama’s entire presidency. “Aha!” I thought. “Now Krugman will have to speak up.” And here’s how he threaded the needle:

So far, i’ve been talking about Obama’s positive achievements, which have been much bigger than his critics understand. I do, however, need to address one area that has left some early Obama supporters bitterly disappointed: his record on national security policy. Let’s face it – many of his original enthusiasts favored him so strongly over Hillary Clinton because she supported the Iraq War and he didn’t. They hoped he would hold the people who took us to war on false pretenses accountable, that he would transform American foreign policy, and that he would drastically curb the reach of the national security state.

None of that happened. Obama’s team, as far as we can tell, never even considered going after the deceptions that took us to Baghdad, perhaps because they believed that this would play very badly at a time of financial crisis. On overall foreign policy, Obama has been essentially a normal post-Vietnam president, reluctant to commit U.S. ground troops and eager to extract them from ongoing commitments, but quite willing to bomb people considered threatening to U.S. interests. And he has defended the prerogatives of the NSA and the surveillance state in general.

Could and should he have been different? The truth is that I have no special expertise here; as an ordinary concerned citizen, I worry about the precedent of allowing what amount to war crimes to go not just unpunished but uninvestigated, even while appreciating that a modern version of the 1970s Church committee hearings on CIA abuses might well have been a political disaster, and undermined the policy achievements I’ve tried to highlight. What I would say is that even if Obama is just an ordinary president on national security issues, that’s a huge improvement over what came before and what we would have had if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won. It’s hard to get excited about a policy of not going to war gratuitously, but it’s a big deal compared with the alternative.

I refer you back to my music video, around the 35 second mark.

7 Responses to “Krugman the Shill”

  1. Bob Roddis says:

    One of my little bromides that I’ve been repeating until people are sick of it (but haven’t taken the lesson to heart) goes something like this:

    “Liberals really don’t care about and have no empathy for all of the innocent third world toddlers, wedding guests and first responders that Obama has slaughtered with drones because it gives him street cred with the American people in the liberals’ endless quest to destroy our health care system. “

    This correlates with my observation in 1973 that liberals have no empathy at all for the victims of their schemes. How many liberals has anyone ever met who felt empathy for the poor little black kids that are forced to attend inner city schools?

    At the same time, despite all of the vicious attacks we endure, libertarians may suffer from too much empathy.

    • Enopoletus Harding says:

      Roddis, the main nutty liberal program of the late Civil Rights Era was busing black kids to white schools, not re-segregation.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Busing led directly to re-segregation, which, of course, was not foreseen by the liberals. The liberals supported building the freeways and Keynesian loans which fueled suburban sprawl which they then blamed on “unconstrained laissez faire capitalism”. They have no regrets and no empathy.

        The thing that struck me at the time was the widespread admiration for Mao and Ho Chi Minh and the total denial of what Stalin and Mao did. No empathy for the victims of their schemes. The forms of their authoritarian schemes may have changed, but not much else.


    • Tel says:

      Banging the political empathy drum requires plenty of victims around the place to make a big deal about. If you can’t find enough victims, gonna have to make some.

      Government is in the business of breaking stuff, then pretending to be a hero while fixing it again.

  2. Bob Roddis says:
  3. Patrick says:

    “The truth is that I have no special expertise here; as an ordinary concerned citizen…”

    I thought for sure being a Nobel Laureate in economics would put you on higher standing when it comes to expertise relating to the effects of one of the biggest financial outlays a nation can get involved in. Surely if another “lesser” economist made well publicized claims to know about these things and differed in opinion with Krug, he would feel differently about his expertise.

  4. Enopoletus Harding says:

    Also, speaking of media shilling, take a look at this:
    Global Warming, equal pay for women, income and wealth inequality, and access to contraception are issues average Democrats consider much more important than average Republicans.
    Since the election of Bush, Republicans have lost trust in the mainstream media. Democrats have not.

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