Krugman’s “Test of Patriotism”
Another rigged tactic from the Times columnist.


Donald L. Luskin

The liberal punditocracy is about to face the sum of all fears: a world in which President Bush took the nation to war over all their objections, doubts, and second-guesses — and won. What are liberal pundits to write about now, with Bush emerging victorious from a spectacularly successful war in Iraq with enough political capital and personal credibility to achieve anything he wishes?

There’s only one thing they can do, and Paul Krugman knows just what that is. The left-leaning pundits must think of something — anything! — about which they can conclude: “If that happens, we will have lost the war, whatever happens on the battlefield.”

Krugman used this tactic in the last sentence of his New York Times column Tuesday. The only problem is that Krugman and the liberal pundits are going to have a difficult time filling in the “that” in that sentence.

What can they think of for Bush and the Republicans to do wrong that they haven’t already suggested? The best Krugman could do this week was to criticize Republicans for criticizing Senator John Kerry for criticizing George Bush.

Last week Kerry stated: “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.” Republican National Committee chair Marc Racicot and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay aggressively took Kerry to task for this rather provocative remark. This led Krugman to charge, “. . . if Mr. Racicot and his party are allowed to set the ground rules, nobody will be allowed to criticize the president or call for his electoral defeat.”

For the Krugman Truth Squad, this is an easy one. If “nobody will be allowed to criticize the president,” there will be an awful lot of blank space on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. That’s not going to happen. Virtually all that Krugman does is dish out criticism of the president. The issue now, apparently, is that he wishes to dish it out, but not take it. On Tuesday, Krugman claimed that the GOP reaction to Kerry’s remark is unprecedented during wartime. He wrote,

In 1944 . . . the opposition didn’t pull its punches: Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate, campaigned on the theme that Franklin Roosevelt was a “tired old man.” As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, the Roosevelt administration didn’t accuse Dewey of hurting morale by questioning the president’s competence. After all, democracy — including the right to criticize — was what we were fighting for. . . . Yet self-styled patriots are trying to impose constraints on political speech never contemplated during World War II, accusing anyone who criticizes the president of undermining the war effort. [Emphasis mine]

An ex officio member of the Krugman Truth Squad — a prominent financial journalist who asked that I not mention his name (professional courtesy, I suppose) — emailed me that he thought “the good professor made a typo: he wrote ‘never’ when he meant ‘always.’ (One is 5 letters long, the other 6 — a statistically insignificant difference to an econometrician.) . . . criticizing the incumbent’s opponents as traitors is one of the oldest and most constant themes of American history.”

A few minutes of Googling in the fortified bunker of the Krugman Truth Squad turned up the proof. I found that in the only address made by Roosevelt during the 1944 presidential campaign against Dewey, FDR responded to a Republican criticism by saying, “I doubt whether even Goebbels would have tried that one.” In response to Republican second-guessing of the way the war was being administered, he said that “it was hardly calculated to bolster the morale of our soldiers and sailors and airmen who are fighting our battles all over the world.”

I even found a Republican pamphlet from Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign of 1864. In the midst of the Civil War, the GOP compared their pro-war stance to the pro-appeasement platform of their opponent. The party of Lincoln — literally — asked, “Which is the most patriotic?”

While we’re on the subject, just what is “patriotic,” anyway? According to Krugman,

The biggest test of a politician’s patriotism is whether he is willing to sacrifice some of his political agenda for the sake of the nation.

As I pointed out on The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid, this test is rigged. For Krugman, only Republicans have to sacrifice their “political agenda,” because in his mind only their agenda is not already aligned with “the sake of the nation.” According to Krugman, Democrats are already there. So patriotism consists of Republicans turning into Democrats, and Democrats staying Democrats.

Krugman used his “test of patriotism” to hang Tom DeLay, who has been a vocal critic of Kerry’s “regime change” remark:

Mr. DeLay’s political agenda hasn’t shifted a bit now that we’re at war again. He’s still pushing for huge, divisive tax cuts that go mainly to the rich: “Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes,” he says. And he’s still eager to slash any and all domestic spending. In the midst of war he pushed through a budget that included sharp cuts in, yes, veterans’ benefits.

A classic Krugman paragraph. It is so packed with lies, exaggerations, and distortions that the Truth Squad scarcely knows where to begin shoveling.

What’s so “huge” about tax cuts that will amount to less than 1% of GDP over the next decade? What’s so “divisive” about them? Is it just that Democrats oppose them? Then why isn’t it the Democratic opposition to the tax cuts that’s “divisive”? And why repeat for the umpteenth time the lie that the tax cuts “go mainly to the rich” when, in percentage terms, they are skewed toward lower-income taxpayers. (In dollar terms, of course, almost any broad-based tax cut will appear to favor the rich — but they’re the ones who have the taxes to cut in the first place.)

And on what possible grounds can Krugman say that DeLay is “eager to slash any and all domestic spending”? Come on — DeLay is a congressman, isn’t he? Just look at his voting record. The guy’s spent a billion here and a billion there, as the saying goes. But suppose Krugman is right that DeLay is anti-spending: Must we necessarily conclude that such a position would not be for “the sake of the nation”? Maybe any and all domestic spending should be slashed. Paul Krugman clearly doesn’t feel that way — but differing with Paul Krugman is hardly the same thing as working against “the sake of the nation.”

And what about those “sharp cuts in, yes, veterans’ benefits”? In the House budget that DeLay “pushed through,” mandatory veterans funding rises by 6.9%, or $4 billion dollars.

DeLay is not the only one whose attack on Kerry earned him an attack by Krugman. Marc Racicot got his turn in the Krugman shooting gallery:

. . . profiting from public office seems to be the norm, not the exception, among those who wrap themselves in the flag. (Mr. Racicot himself accepted the job as R.N.C. chairman only on the condition that he remain on the payroll of Bracewell and Patterson, a law firm that specializes in lobbying.)

Here’s another example of something that’s only a sin if you’re a Republican. As Krugman Truth Squad member David Hogberg wrote on Cornfield Commentary,

. . . the job of R.N.C. chairman is not a government position; thus Racicot doesn’t hold a “public office.” . . . Furthermore, singling out Racicot for supposed “profiting” from public office seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Either that, or I missed the news that D.N.C. chairman Terry McAuliffe donated that $18 million he made off of selling Global Crossing stock to charity.

But, of course, the man at the center of the controversy, Sen. Kerry, doesn’t have to concern himself with such conflicts in the first place. He doesn’t have to work for his money like Racicot and McAuliffe. Instead, he married it.

Is this tempest in a black kettle the best that Krugman — America’s most dangerous liberal pundit — can come up with? Is this the “that” in “If that happens, we will have lost the war, whatever happens on the battlefield”?

It that’s true, then it’s the liberals who have lost the war.