Politics & Policy


It's move five in the Krugman correction chess match.

Our game of chess with Paul Krugman — America’s most dangerous liberal pundit — continues. And we’re winning — with the unexpected help of the “public editor” of the New York Times.

As regular readers know, the game is all about forcing Krugman to admit publicly that he lied in his August 19 Times column when he declared

the simple truth: “Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election.” Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.

In truth, the media recounts, which looked at what would have happened if the Florida supreme court’s recount order had not been derailed by the U.S. Supreme Court, would have confirmed the win by George W. Bush under almost all recount methods. In other words, Krugman’s statement was a full-fledged lie.

Of course, getting a correction out of Krugman is no easy matter. Hence, a chess game of epic proportions:

Move One: Intense and immediate pressure from throughout the blogosphere forced Krugman to clarify in his August 22 column that he had been referring only to a scenario of a full statewide manual recount (which, he didn’t say, would have gone beyond the scope of anything ordered by the Florida supreme court or even requested by the Gore campaign). He noted that, in such a scenario, the consortium led by the Miami Herald would have given the election to Gore under two out of three recount methods.

Move Two: In this column on August 24, we pointed out that the Herald consortium had employed four, not three, methods for its full statewide manual recount scenario — and that Gore had only won two out of four, not two out of three. Two days later, in his August 26 column, Krugman published an official correction — sort of. He acknowledged that he had “originally misstated the results of the 2000 Florida election study” by failing to have said that the Herald had only found Gore winning under two out of three methods. This correction only perpetuated a lie — the Herald had found Gore winning only under two out of four methods — thus it had not, on balance, found him winning at all.

Move Three: In this column on August 31, we proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Herald had, indeed, found Gore the winner only under two out of four methods — having obtained direct testimony from Mark Seibel, the managing editor who spearheaded the Herald’s recount project in 2001. Three days later, on the morning of September 2, New York Times “public editor” Byron Calame posted an entry to his web journal urging Krugman to correct his two out of three error. Later that day, Krugman posted a correction on the Times website, in the area devoted to letters to the editor.

Move Four: In this column on September 13, we blasted Krugman, Calame, and Times editorial page editor Gail Collins for not making Krugman’s correction “official.” We noted that it had never appeared in the Times’s print edition, was not appended to a Krugman column (as called for under Collins’s official columnist corrections policy), and appears nowhere in the Times website search engine or any of the public periodical databases such as Lexis/Nexis, ProQuest, or Factiva. It’s the correction that never was — straight down the memory hole. Three days later, on September 16, Calame posted on his web journal a stinging rebuke to Krugman and Collins — calling Krugman’s web posting a “faux correction,” complaining that “Ms. Collins hasn’t offered any explanation,” and asking, “Does a corrections policy not enforced damage The Times’s credibility more than having no policy at all?”

Move Five: This column, today. We once again challenge Krugman and Collins to make the correction official. The facts are not in question. Krugman admitted his error in his web posting — so why not commit it to print, and to the searchable archives, so that generations of future researchers utilizing the “newspaper of record” won’t be misled? And if Krugman and Collins won’t do it, then we challenge Calame to document the correction himself — and the dysfunctional process under which it was not made official — in his Sunday column in the print edition of the Times, not just his web journal.

Why is it important to go to so much trouble to correct one lie? First, because Paul Krugman and the Times are tremendously influential and prestigious, and unless their lies are corrected they will live in the public discourse and the history books as truths. And second, by teaching Krugman that he will have to bear the public humiliation of correcting his lies, his columns in the future will have to be based only on truth. And that will make it a lot harder for him to advance his loony Angry Left agenda — an agenda that doesn’t have much truth underpinning it.

In the future, Krugman’s columns would be like Monday’s — baseless jeremiads consisting of nothing but the author’s crazy and hateful personal opinions. In his Monday column, Krugman advanced the paranoid theory that the entire political movement in America toward limited government is based on not on helping the needy, which in turn is based on racism. As Krugman put it,

race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need. … race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.

Just what race is Krugman talking about? According to the Census Bureau, in 2004 there were 25.3 million white people living below the poverty line, but only 9 million black people. Krugman continued,

in the United States, unlike any other advanced country, many people fail to receive basic health care because they can’t afford it. Lack of health insurance kills many more Americans each year than Katrina and 9/11 combined. But the health care crisis hasn’t had much effect on politics. And one reason is that it isn’t yet a crisis among middle-class, white Americans (although it’s getting there). Instead, the worst effects are falling on the poor and black …

Oh yeah? According to the Census Bureau, in 2004 there were 21.4 million white people without health insurance, and only 7.2 million blacks. If all those purported “racists” in favor of smaller government are out to screw black people, it seems they’re willing to screw an awful a lot of white people in the process. Talk about collateral damage!

Krugman is certainly entitled to his opinions, no matter how paranoid and no matter how unsupported by facts they may be. But he’s not entitled to lie about the facts. And when he can’t do that, his opinions don’t carry much weight.

And that’s why we’re keeping the pressure on Krugman and the Times — and “bravo” to Byron Calame for following our lead. Maybe after a couple more moves in this chess game we won’t have to call Paul Krugman “America’s most dangerous liberal pundit” anymore. He’ll just be America’s looniest.

– 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 don@trendmacro.com.


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