Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, September 12, 2003  

One last thing: I'd also like to direct your attention to Paul Krugman's article today. It's an extremely pointed indictment of the White House's exploitation of 9/11. I expect it to be dismissed out of hand by anyone "moderate" or right thereof (as I think Tom did). But I'd like to probe a bit. Let's look at what Krugman says, and see if there's any reason not to take it very seriously.

As The Washington Post pointed out yesterday, in the past six weeks President Bush has invoked 9/11 not just to defend Iraq policy and argue for oil drilling in the Arctic, but in response to questions about tax cuts, unemployment, budget deficits and even campaign finance. Meanwhile, the crudity of the administration's recent propaganda efforts, from dressing the president up in a flight suit to orchestrating the ludicrously glamorized TV movie about Mr. Bush on 9/11, have set even supporters' teeth on edge.

This is perhaps the least defensible part of the argument. It's true that Bush took advantage of his popularity to drive through these unpopular policies. But is there any evidence he (ahem, Karl) wouldn't have tried in the absence of 9/11? As to the landing, well, "ludicrously glamorized" is about all you can call it, particularly given the military machinations that went on behind the scenes.

Now it has all gone wrong. The deficit is about to go above half a trillion dollars, the economy is still losing jobs, the triumph in Iraq has turned to dust and ashes, and Mr. Bush's poll numbers are at or below their pre-9/11 levels.

The reason I'd be surprised if righties take this article seriously is because they don't even take these facts seriously. Is any conservative willing to own up to any failure?

The result, clearly, will be an ugly, bitter campaign - probably the nastiest of modern American history. Four months ago it seemed that the 2004 campaign would be all slow-mo films of Mr. Bush in his flight suit. But at this point, it's likely to be pictures of Howard Dean or Wesley Clark that morph into Saddam Hussein. And Donald Rumsfeld has already rolled out the stab-in-the-back argument: if you criticize the administration, you're lending aid and comfort to the enemy.

Say what you will about Krugman; but he makes predictions and he stands behind them. On Fresh Air a couple days ago, Terry Gross confronted him with one of his particularly provocative predictions: that the stock market crash would be regarded as a more serious calamity than 9/11. She asked if he still stood by that, and he said no, but qualified it. Listen here. So I'd like to throw down a challenge. Don't think the White House will do what Krugman predicts? Wanna bet?

The administration's infallibility complex - its inability to admit ever making a mistake - will get even worse. And I disagree with those who think the administration can claim infallibility even while practicing policy flexibility: on major issues, such as taxes or Iraq, any sensible policy would too obviously be an implicit admission that previous policies had failed.

Again, anyone willing to own up to failure?

I think the reason that conservatives so despise Krugman is that he doesn't play the usual liberal game of hedging. He says things baldly and provocatively, and he dares you to call him on it. He doesn't go for the shades-of-gray argument. The reason, of course, is because he actually believes catastrophe is at hand, and like anyone scared to death, he's screaming "Fire!" For anyone who's going to dismiss this article as liberal rhetoric, I ask them to put on a different hat and consider the possibility Krugman's right. Then prove him wrong; not rhetorically, but with facts.

Krugman's been wrong about a few things. But by a large margin his predictions have been more accurate than wrong. Compare that with the Bush team's predictions. So now he's screaming "Fire!" again. Is there any reason we shouldn't be headed for the exits?

posted by Jeff | 11:10 AM |
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