As readers of NRO know, Paul Krugman has established himself as perhaps the single most partisan voice on the New York Times Op-Ed page, no mean accomplishment. Krugman the other day wrote a column criticizing Wolf Blitzer for allegedly passing along a White House smear of Richard Clarke. Krugman wrote, “On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke ‘wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well.’”
Blitzer on the air Tuesday corrected Krugman, pointing out that he said those words in the course of asking a question of White House correspondent John King. As Blitzer put it Tuesday, “Finally, this clarification. Last Wednesday, while I was debriefing our senior White House correspondent, John King, I asked him if White House officials were suggesting there were some weird aspects to Richard Clarke’s life. Clarke, of course, is the former counterterrorism adviser who has sharply criticized the president’s handling of the war on terror. I was not referring to anything charged by so-called unnamed White House officials as alleged today by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. I was simply seeking to flesh out what Bush National Security Council spokesman Jim Wilkinson had said on this program two days earlier” [when he pointed out what he thought was a weird passage in Clarke’s book].
Krugman today takes Blitzer to task for this clarification: “Silly me: I ‘alleged’ that Mr. Blitzer said something because he actually said it, and described ’so-called unnamed’ officials as unnamed because he didn’t name them.”
But Krugman clearly distorted the original Blitzer statement. Blitzer was asking John King a question, and right after the bit that Krugman quoted he said, “Is that the sense that you’re getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?” King responded, “None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke’s personal life in any way.” Let’s repeat: “None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke’s personal life in any way.” If Krugman really wanted to know the truth about whether the White House was smearing Clarke or not, he should have considered King’s reporting more important than a passage in Blitzer’s question to him. But since King’s definitive factual statement didn’t fit Krugman’s agenda, he left it out. Where’s Daniel Okrent when you need him?
Here is the Blitzer-King passage in its entirety:
BLITZER: Well, John, I get the sense not only what Dr. Rice just said to you and other reporters at the White House, but what administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn’t get a certain promotion. He’s got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don’t know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president. Is that the sense that you’re getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?
KING: None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke’s personal life in any way. But they offer a very mixed picture. They say that he was a very dedicated, a very smart member of the senior White House staff, that he was held over because of his expertise in the Clinton administration on terrorism issues and the Bush administration, these officials say, wanted a smooth transition. They also say, and many top Clinton administration officials support this, that Richard Clarke could be irritable. He could sometimes get angry at those who did not agree with him. That is an opinion shared in both administrations. And, in the end, of course, he did not get the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security and he decided to move on.