Krugman vs Obama: It gets personal

I wasn’t going to blog this because I figured I had been a bit too harsh on Obama lately. But he just opened up a HUGE can of worms when he attacked Paul Krugman for criticizing his plan. The blogosphere is on fire in response to Obama’s responses to Krugman. Here’s what they have to say:

Ezra Klein

Something’s really gone off the rails when the Obama campaign decides to release an oppo document on Paul Krugman. It’s not only the actual attacks that are weak (most of them rely on misinterpreting one comment, then misinterpreting the next, then pretending there’s a contradiction), but, seriously, it’s Paul Krugman. Arguably the most progressive voice in American media. When I argued that the campaign should take the gloves off, I really didn’t expect their target, in this document and in the health care fight more generally, would be progressivism. What in hell is going on over there?

He continues:

Well, it was one thing when Obama simply didn’t have a mechanism to achieve universality. It became a whole other when he began criticizing mechanisms to achieve universality. Previously, he’d gotten some flack for buying into the conservative argument that Social Security was in crisis. Now he was constructing a conservative argument against far-reaching reform proposals. And he kept doing it.

Obama’s rhetoric has become much, much worse than his plan. That it’s ended with him having to go on the offensive against the most forthrightly progressive voice in major American media is evidence of that fact.

Krugman’s response

… I was prepared to leave it at that — Obama’s plan was weaker than his rivals’ because it wasn’t universal, but I hoped that he would fix that in practice.

But then Obama started attacking his rivals from the right, denouncing their proposals using exactly the same false claims that conservatives will use to try to derail reform in the future.

And now, having been caught out on the facts, the Obama people respond with a personal attack, lifting quotes out of context to pretend that I never had problems with the plan. Something is very wrong here.

Kevin Drum

Still, attacking Krugman as inconsistent, as they did on Friday, is indeed bizarre. He hasn’t been. What’s more, although it’s true that Krugman prefers the Edwards/Clinton approach on both healthcare and Social Security, his complaint isn’t primarily with the substance of Obama’s plans anyway. Rather, his complaint is with Obama’s rhetoric, which has been fundamentally an attack from the right that will only make it harder for progressives to fight similar-sounding right-wing attacks in the future.

So why is Obama doing this? Drum agree’s with thirdestate’s theory:

…Every four years the media finds itself swooning over some candidate that it crowns as a “truthteller,” and they’ve pretty much already anointed Obama in that role this year. But rather than leaving well enough alone — the smart strategy — I can’t help but think that Obama has decided that he should actively court the Tim Russerts and Tom Friedmans of the world, the ones who ritually demand bipartisan pain as the only solution to America’s problems.


Why focus on Social Security at all, since it’s not really a big problem? Why attack health care plans that have mandates, rather than say why your approach is better? And why in the world would your campaign attack Paul Krugman??

I’ve been considering these questions for some time, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that Obama is trying to win the “media primary” (which I referred to awhile ago). My suspicion is that Barack is attempting to appease/manipulate the class of establishment pundits, and with them the press corps as a whole. It’s not a bad strategy as far as it goes. As Rove knew, if you can get the press to attack a candidate, you don’t have to do it (or pay the price with higher negatives). An opponent, no matter how formidable, isn’t so scary if he or she is busy fighting the press AND the opposing campaign. By making noises about Social Security and mandates, Obama is feeding the media beast. Heck, it might even work, if recent polls are any evidence.

Jerome Armstrong

Couple it with the quote of Obama’s above the PR that says: “I want to campaign the same way I govern, which is to respond directly and forcefully with the truth -Barack Obama”. It is plainly and simply an effort to call Paul Krugman a liar.

But it’s also a telling quote of the way that Obama would govern as President– by attacking those who are most outspoken in the being progressive.


Is Obama is just plain ignorant of the fight we’ve faced this decade in going after Krugman? Why is he going after the Clinton and Edwards plans to push forward the idea of universal coverage? Does he really have no clue that using the term ‘crisis’ to describe Social Security is Rovian?

It’s mistakes like these that make me think that if Obama gets the nomination, it’s going to be disgusting to watch as he turns against progressives in his bid for the middle, and as he says, that’s the way he’d govern too. .

(bold faced emphasis mine)

I think the key thing to remember here is that its fine to defend your policies but its NOT okay to attack progressive policies with right wing smears simply because you think their policy is too liberal. Furthermore DO NOT PERSONALLY ATTACK WELL RESPECTED PROGRESSIVE JOURNALISTS because you disagree.


One thought on “Krugman vs Obama: It gets personal

  1. Pingback: Its the ZOMBIES STUPID: Obama vs Krugman Round 2 « Cognitive Dissonance

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