It’S The Truth That Counts
Paul Krugman's outrageous Florida lie.


Donald L. Luskin

“This will be the subject of about a billion blog entries today. Did Krugman really think he could get away with this?” So wrote John Podhoretz on National Review Online’s The Corner on Friday, stunned by an outrageous lie in Paul Krugman’s New York Times column that day. America’s most dangerous liberal pundit had written,

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.

Podhoretz was right. By the end of the day, Krugman’s lie had been blasted out of the water by a flotilla of Krugman Truth Squad members in the blogosphere, including Chief Brief, Power Line, Brainster, The American Thinker, Brain Terminal, and my own blog, The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor & Stupid.

Krugman’s lie was especially loathsome considering that his own newspaper — the New York Times — was a member of one of the media consortiums to review the election results. On November 12, 2001, the Times reported:

Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations … The media consortium included The Times …

Of course, Krugman would never publish a formal retraction. As former Times “public editor” Dan Okrent said of Krugman, “I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism.” And besides, that George W. Bush stole the 2000 election is the creation-myth of the Angry Left — it is an article of religious faith not to be questioned. And so we find Krugman, in his column Monday, digging himself even deeper into a pit of deceit as he attempts to paper over his lie.

Responding to what he called the “outraged reaction” to his Friday column, Krugman starts by rephrasing his lie in less ambitious terms:

what would have happened if the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t intervened; the answer is that unless the judge overseeing the recount had revised his order (which is a possibility), George W. Bush would still have been declared the winner. … what would have happened if there had been a full, statewide manual recount — as there should have been. The probable answer is that Al Gore would have won, by a tiny margin.

Now, Krugman acknowledges that Bush would have won if the recount that had actually been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court had been allowed to proceed. Now, Krugman makes it clear that what he was talking about on Friday was something more than that — a “full” recount beyond the scope of the one contemplated at the time, something that was not on the table, yet he personally believes “should have been.” Now, Krugman discloses that even this would have made a Gore victory only a “probable answer,” and even then only “by a tiny margin.”

But rephrasing a lie does not make it go away. Even taking account of the critical importance of the word “full,” it remains a lie to say that “Two different news media consortiums … both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.” One of the two consortiums — one led by the Miami Herald and which included USA Today — found no such thing.

This consortium recounted the votes under four standards, ranging from lenient to strict. According to USA Today on April 3, 2002, “By three of the standards, Bush holds the lead. The fourth standard gives Gore a razor-thin win.”

What does Krugman say about that? More lies. Krugman wrote on Monday, “Two out of three hypothetical statewide counts would have given the election to Mr. Gore.” Reality: There were not three counts, there were four. And three out of four went for Bush, not Gore.

Those four counts, however, were not the “full” recounts that Krugman thinks “should have been.” Nevertheless, he lied about them. And even this consortium’s “full” counts — those that dealt with “overvotes” in addition to “undervotes” — don’t support Krugman’s claims. According to USA Today on May 10, 2001, again there were four standards (not three). The winner was “Bush, under the 2 most widely used standards; Gore, under the 2 least used.”

So “full” recount or not, it was an outright lie for Krugman to claim that “both” consortiums named Gore the winner. But what about that second consortium, the one that included the New York Times?

According to the Times itself on November 12, 2001, the most that can be said is that “Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots … The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory … “

So with all that, let’s see what remains of Krugman’s lie. Under the recount process ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, both consortiums agree that Bush would have won. Under the “full” recount process that Krugman thinks “should have been,” one consortium gives the election to Bush under the more widely used standards, and the other consortium only finds that Gore “might” have “eked out” a victory.

Those are the facts. But will the Times run a correction, at least concerning Krugman’s blatant factual misrepresentations about the Miami Herald/USA Today consortium’s results? As of this writing, I’ve heard nothing in response to my query about it to “public editor” Byron Calame. I’m not holding my breath. There’s no way the New York Times is going to interrupt its most effective evangelist when he’s in the middle of a fire-and-brimstone sermon about the Angry Left’s cherished creation-myth.

– Donald Luskin is chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC, an independent economics and investment-research firm. He welcomes your visit to his blog and your comments at [email protected].


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