Friday, January 09, 2004
A missed opportunity: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's column, addressing the latest developments in the Enron investigation presented him with a unique opportunity.
This should be no surprise to anyone, but Krugman is once again the most partisan columnist among those in the direct employ of newspapers. (Only conservative bomb-thrower Ann Coulter is more partisan.)
In its year-end analysis, Lying in Ponds had this to say about Paul Krugman:
Paul Krugman's partisanship score was slightly lower than last year, but the extreme partisanship of his columns was essentially unchanged. Mr. Krugman has written two columns each week for The New York Times for four full years, including the final year of the Clinton administration, covering topics from elections in France to the space program. In response to readers' comments, I've tediously gone through all 382 of Mr. Krugman's Times columns, looking for "harsh criticisms . . directed against Democrats", but have been simply unable to find a column which consists mainly of substantive and unambiguous criticism directed at Bill Clinton or Al Gore or Terry McAuliffe or Tom Daschle or Al Sharpton or Howard Dean or Gray Davis or any other Democrat. That distinguishes Mr. Krugman from fellow left-leaning pundits such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, Michael Kinsley, Thomas Oliphant, Mary McGrory, Helen Thomas, and even Robert Scheer and Molly Ivins, all of whom have found occasions to substantively criticize their own party in only the last couple of years. How many "crossover columns" would an ideologically strident but truly independent columnist write out of 382 opportunities? I don't know, but certainly far more than zero. Mr. Krugman is clearly a gifted economist and writer, but for whatever reason, his columns have scrupulously observed party boundaries, finding unlimited time to discuss Thomas White and Trent Lott but no time at all for Marc Rich or Al Sharpton.
While Enron's collapse and illegal business acts came to light at the beginning of the Bush administration, most of the acts themselves occurred during the Clinton administration.
Krugman's column is entitled: "Enron and the System," but it's easy to imagine what the headline writers could have come up with if Bush had been president at the time.
One of Mrs. Fastow's earliest high-profile deals involved the creation of an elaborate tax shelter. It was obvious from the beginning that this type of shelter was a scam, and the Treasury Department tried to get this maneuver banned in 1994 — but Congress refused to act. In 1998 Treasury tried a different tack, getting the I.R.S. to disallow Enron's tax deduction, but the agency backed down in the face of an intense lobbying campaign.
Congress refused to act in 1994? Who was in charge of Congress in 1994? Democrats (Republicans won back control of the House and Senate in the 1994 elections, but didn't actually take office until 1995.)
In 1998, the Treasury Dept. backs down once again. Whose Treasury Department? The Clinton Treasury Department.
There's plenty of opportunity to slam a Democrat -- Clinton specifically -- for "allowing" Enron to happen. One little critical remark and Krugman can get off the schneid and put a tally in the "not always a partisan hack" column.
One big missed opportunity.