Thursday, March 28, 2002
Paul "Line 47" Krugman is at it again. After failing miserably at explaining economic issues, Krugman tries his hand at history. If you're liberal, then just wait, the vast right-wing conspiracy is going to get you!
[I]n a way, it's a shame that so much of David Brock's "Blinded by the Right: The conscience of an ex-conservative" is about the private lives of our self-appointed moral guardians. Those tales will sell books, but they may obscure the important message: that the "vast right-wing conspiracy" is not an overheated metaphor but a straightforward reality, and that it works a lot like a special-interest lobby.
It's not surprising that Krugman is reading a book written by an admitted hatchet man and liar. Actually, it's indicative of what's going on in Krugman's miniscule mind -- garbage in, garbage out.
Modern political economy teaches us that small, well-organized groups often prevail over the broader public interest. The steel industry got the tariff it wanted, even though the losses to consumers will greatly exceed the gains of producers, because the typical steel consumer doesn't understand what's happening.
I don't think that Krugman's necessarily wrong here, but it's small groups on both sides. Krugman wants to point to Republicans. I can point to Democrats. Witness the lynching of Judge Charles Pickering and the passage of campaign-finance reform.
"Blinded by the Right" shows that the same logic applies to non-economic issues. The scandal machine that employed Mr. Brock was, in effect, a special-interest group financed by a handful of wealthy fanatics — men like the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, whose cultlike Unification Church owns The Washington Times, and Richard Mellon Scaife, who bankrolled the scandal-mongering American Spectator and many other right-wing enterprises. It was effective because the typical news consumer didn't realize what was going on.
The group's efforts managed to turn Whitewater — a $200,000 money-losing investment — into a byword for scandal, even though an eight-year, $73 million investigation never did find any evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons. Just imagine what the scandal machine could have done with more promising raw material — such as the decidedly unusual business transactions of the young George W. Bush.
Krugman doesn't even have the guts to call a spade a spade. "Cultlike Unification Church"? It's a cult...say it with me....it's a cult. Krugman argues that the "typical news consumer" was aware of these reports, but didn't realize the insidious plot behind it. Sorry, but the typical news consumer heard little about these investigations initially. They did hear about them later, when the mainstream media spent time to debunk them.
While nothing in Whitewater ever seriously hurt the Clintons, there were numerous criminal convictions that arose from the investigation, including the sitting governor of Arkansas, Jim Guy Tucker.
As for the "decidedly unusual business transactions of the young George W. Bush," give me a break. If there was anything there, the media would root it out. It's intellectually lazy to toss out that kind of frivolous accusation.
But there is, of course, no comparable scandal machine on the left. Why not?
One answer is that for some reason there is a level of anger and hatred on the right that has at best a faint echo in the anti-globalization left, and none at all in mainstream liberalism. Indeed, the liberals I know generally seem unwilling to face up to the nastiness of contemporary politics.
Krugman's memory is disturbingly short. Remember Newt Gingrich? Bob Livingston? Henry Hyde? Iran-Contra? There's nastiness on both sides, to claim that liberals are pure ignores recent history. Both sides are dirty.
It's also true that in the nature of things, billionaires are more likely to be right-wing than left-wing fanatics. When billionaires do support more or less liberal causes, they usually try to help the world, not take over the U.S. political system. Not to put too fine a point on it: While George Soros was spending lavishly to promote democracy abroad, Mr. Scaife was spending lavishly to undermine it at home.
Hey Krugman, does the name Ted Turner mean anything to you? Yeah, conservatives are uniformly evil, and liberals want to save the world. Life must be really easy for you when the world is divided so starkly into black and white.
Regular readers of this column know that not long ago I found myself the target of a minor-league smear campaign. The pattern was typical: right-wing sources insisting that a normal business transaction (in my case consulting for Enron, back when I was a college professor, not an Op-Ed columnist, and in no position to do the company any favors) was somehow corrupt; then legitimate media picking up on the story, assuming that given all the fuss there must be something to the allegations; and no doubt a lingering impression, even though no favors were given or received, that the target must have done something wrong ("Isn't it hypocritical for him to criticize crony capitalism when he himself was on the take?"). Now that I've read Mr. Brock's book I understand what happened.
Krugman, I'll try to explain this to you. It's called disclosure and telling the truth. You started writing about Enron, without telling anyone that you'd once worked for them. Once you were found out, you said that you'd only been paid a small sum. Well, it turned out that was $50,000. That may be a small sum to you, but it's a year's salary to the vast majority of Americans.
Right, you're the victim.
You still don't get it. You're a hack and a liar, that's why you get attacked. You thought it was bad before, just wait until bloggers get ahold of you this time.