THE CASE OF POTENTIAL PRESIDENT TRUMP: Krugman refuses to tell us the truth!


Part 1—Our own role in this debacle:
Could Candidate Donald J. Trump get elected next November?

Actually, yes, he could.

We're not saying he will get elected. We're not even saying that the general election will be close.

But yes—Candidate Trump actually could reach the White House. We'd say it's a clear possibility. We'd also say that we, the liberals and the progressives, have played a leading role in creating this debacle.

In this morning's New York Times, Paul Krugman reviews the history which has led to this state of affairs. Krugman concedes only that Candidate Trump could win the GOP nomination. He tries to explain how we've reached the point where that is a possibility.

In our view, his first three paragraphs basically stick to the truth:
KRUGMAN (12/21/15): Almost six months have passed since Donald Trump overtook Jeb Bush in polls of Republican voters. At the time, most pundits dismissed the Trump phenomenon as a blip, predicting that voters would soon return to more conventional candidates. Instead, however, his lead just kept widening. Even more striking, the triumvirate of trash-talk—Mr. Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz—now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.

But how can this be happening? After all, the antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error. Why don’t Republican voters seem to care?

Well, part of the answer has to be that the party taught them not to care.
Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the “liberal media” didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand. So how are voters supposed to know where to draw the line?
We'd regard that account as basically accurate. From our perspective, Candidate Trump does "have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error." He also seems to be "deeply ignorant about policy," though that starts to be a somewhat harder call. (Does he think his budget plan makes sense, or is he just pretending?)

"Why don’t Republican voters seem to care" about these matters? Many Republican voters apparently do. Many Republican voters express a negative view of Trump. Meanwhile, Candidate Cruz doesn't seem to be "deeply ignorant about policy" in the way Trump and the fading Carson may and do seem.

Still, a large percentage of GOP voters favor Trump for the nomination, and he runs fairly close to Candidate Clinton in general election polls. Krugman is asking a thoroughly sensible question: Why don't Trump's voters seem to care about his false claims and his apparent ignorance? (Unmentioned are the policy proposals which have often been denounced for an array of reasons.)

Candidate Trump has largely broken a mold; it's reasonable to ask why he has attracted so much support. That said, we agree with part of Krugman's explanation.

It's true! In our view, the GOP—and perhaps more importantly, the surrounding world of conservative talk—have made a long-standing fetish of false and improbable claims, accompanied by disdain for "the liberal media." In many ways, Trump is merely a jacked-up version of a preexisting political culture.

In our view, Krugman basically stick to the truth in those first three paragraphs. From that point on, we'd say his piece is fundamentally misleading.

We'd say he largely disappears the role of his colleagues in the mainstream press, and of his employer, in the rise of Trump and Trumpism. Beyond that, we'd say he disappears the role of people like us.

When does Krugman's account become selective? As he proceeds, he traces the rise of this Trumpist culture in the events of Campaign 2000.

This culture was being invented long before that, of course. But in our view, Krugman's account of that campaign is less than obsessively accurate:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): Let’s talk first about the legacy of He Who Must Not Be Named.

I don’t know how many readers remember the 2000 election, but during the campaign Republicans tried—largely successfully—to make the election about likability, not policy. George W. Bush was supposed to get your vote because he was someone you’d enjoy having a beer with, unlike that stiff, boring guy Al Gore with all his facts and figures.

And when Mr. Gore tried to talk about policy differences, Mr. Bush responded not on the substance but by mocking his opponent’s “fuzzy math”—a phrase gleefully picked up by his supporters. The press corps played right along with this deliberate dumbing-down: Mr. Gore was deemed to have lost debates, not because he was wrong, but because he was, reporters declared, snooty and superior, unlike the affably dishonest W.
Everything Krugman says in that passage is true. But good lord! The problem lies with the much larger factors he chooses to omit.

What actually happened in Campaign 2000? It's true that "Republicans tried, largely successfully, to make the election about likability, not policy." But the larger role was played by Krugman's colleagues and employer and the like, not by the GOP. And please! The much larger factor in that campaign involved attacks on Gore's character, not on his likability.

In that passage, a reader is given the impression that the press corps and reporters played along with GOP claims, and that they did so rather late in the campaign, at the time of the debates. That impression is grossly misleading. Perhaps on the brighter side, it does allow the columnist to avoid telling the truth about the role played by his colleagues and his employer from March 1999 forward.

Krugman's account of that campaign is deeply bowdlerized. His account is so deeply selective that it's essentially false.

Things don't get enormously better when Krugman proceeds to the war in Iraq:
KRUGMAN (continuing directly): Then came 9/11, and the affable guy was repackaged as a war leader. But the repackaging was never framed in terms of substantive arguments over foreign policy. Instead, Mr. Bush and his handlers sold swagger. He was the man you could trust to keep us safe because he talked tough and dressed up as a fighter pilot. He proudly declared that he was the “decider”—and that he made his decisions based on his “gut.”

The subtext was that real leaders don’t waste time on hard thinking, that listening to experts is a sign of weakness, that attitude is all you need. And while Mr. Bush’s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America’s faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain, who once upon a time had a reputation for policy independence, chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate.

So Donald Trump as a political phenomenon is very much in a line of succession that runs from W. through Mrs. Palin, and in many ways he’s entirely representative of the Republican mainstream.
In truth, it's silly to say that Bush's reaction to 9/11 "was never framed in terms of substantive arguments over foreign policy." That said, Krugman's statements are once again basically accurate. And yet, by God! Multitudes have been dropped from his account.

Krugman tells a pretty story in which the rise of our puzzling new culture was caused by the GOP, full stop. At the end of his piece, he explicitly says that this troubling culture "is where the party has been headed for a long time."

We would say that that statement is accurate. But Krugman's colleagues, and Krugman's employer, have played a tremendously active role in shaping this new culture too. It's disgusting that, after all these years, this high-ranking columnist is still refusing to say this.

Whose conduct disappears as Krugman tells this bowdlerized story? Among so many others, he disappears the crazed Maureen Dowd and the ludicrous Frank Rich.

Dowd's crazed conduct is fairly well known. As for Rich, he insisted, all through Campaign 2000, that Gore and Bush were two peas in a pod. In the run-up to the war in Iraq, he ridiculed Gore as a fake and a phony when he made his September 2002 speech warning against that war.

Rich kept this up for years after that. He even derided Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, as a fake and phony attempt to run for president again in 2008.

Rich maintained this lunacy for years, building upon his previous years of hunting down the Clintons. He only relented when Gore won the Nobel peace prize. At that time, Rich executed an instant 180. He began fawning to Gore.

What's the oddness here? To this day, Rich remains a big-mouthed liberal hero, in part because people like Krugman agree to pretend that his ludicrous conduct never occurred. It was all the GOP, our loyal employee declares.

Who else has disappeared in Krugman's account? Does the name Chris Matthews ring a bell? Today, Matthews is a star of corporate liberal cable. Back then, he savaged Candidate Gore for two years, then continued to savage him in the years which followed.

Meanwhile, did Bush and his handlers sell us swagger, pimping him as the man we could trust "because he talked tough and dressed up as a fighter pilot?" Yes, they did, with the ridiculous help of ridiculous people like Matthews.

Matthews fawned, for roughly a week, over the president's manifest manliness in that "dress up" performance. On May 1, the day of the flight, Lawrence O'Donnell appeared on Hardball to help Matthews fawn, and to note that President Clinton "probably had a little too much beef on his bones to fit in one of those cockpits."

Matthews kept praising Bush for his "display of masculine leadership qualities" right through the famous May 8 gong-show, when he and the crackpot Gordon Liddy discussed the way the president's flight suit and parachute harness "makes the best of his manly characteristic," to recall Liddy's words.

Today, Lawrence and Matthews are cast on TV as heroes of corporate liberal labor. Back then, they spent years inventing and promulgating crazy, false attacks on Clinton and Clinton and especially on Candidate Gore.

In Campaign 2000, the false attacks on Candidate Gore came from Matthews and a large cast of mainstream journalists to a much larger extent than they came from Republican operatives. We liberals and progressives still aren't allowed to hear such facts, a situation which seems to suit us just fine.

Krugman still won't tell you these things, although of course he knows them. But that part of our crackpot history was a product of his colleagues and his employer more than of the GOP.

Krugman still won't tell you! The fact that we keep swallowing what he's selling tells us something very important about us. It tells us something about the role we liberals have played in this spreading debacle.

Simply put, we liberals aren't enormously sharp. We buy the shit our heroes sell, in a way which strongly resembles the process we love to mock and denounce in The Others.

As Krugman correctly notes, our political and journalistic cultures are falling to ruin. Krugman's column describes some of the symptoms.

Here's the part Krugman still won't discuss—we liberals have played a major role in this debacle. In this shortened week, let's discuss that widely-disappeared but rather obvious fact.

We love to mock the dumbness of Them. In this shortened sacred or holiday week, let's discuss the dumbness and loathing which keep emerging from Us.

Candidate Trump could get elected. We liberals have helped build the world in which that possibility exists.

We continue to nudge that process along. Is this our present to Trump?

This afternoon: Chuck Todd pretends to interview Candidate Trump again


  1. Faced with a choice I'll take Krugman over a Krackpot any day.

  2. The "I'm the guy who can get the job done; never mind how" patter didn't start with Trump. I'm a Jimmy Carter fan, but he was frequently criticized in 1976 for his lack of specifics and appeal to the "new spirit" he would bring to the Watergate-tainted White House.

    While Bush 41 was pledging allegiance to the flag and issuing scary pix of rampaging Negroes set loose by the Massachusetts governor, Dukakis kept stressing his "competence" as a reason for electing him. His photo ops included one of him sunning on the beach with a fat sexy book on Swedish land planning.

    Asked about what exactly he would do is elected, Ross Perot said there were any number of good plans for fixing what ailed us just lying around gathering dust is this think tank or that. Just vote for the the right kind of successful billionaire to sort through them and put them to work. Never mind which ones. The proven billionaire would decide later.

    I keep hearing if Trump had just handed the money he inherited over to a good investments counselor, he would still be just as rich as he is today after all his wheeling and dealing and gaudy buildings.

    Somebody find me that investments counselor so I can vote for him.

    1. You'll do anything to avoid admitting guilt.

  3. Under the old rules, a person like Fiorina wouldn't have been permitted to run for president. Now, with party gatekeepers gone, all such protections are gone.

    1. Back when legitimate gatekeepers ran the MainStreamMedia and excluded crazy talk from the public dialog, Somerby remembers it as being a political Golden Age. [LINK] [LINK]

  4. Not to disagree with the part about the media's role in what's going on. Not at all. But. Prof. Krugman wrote a column about the Republican Party and the product that it has been selling for quite some time. The scope of that column did not extend to a discussion of media culpability in tilting the scales to the right.

    Is attempting to stick to the one-subject rule really tantamount to obfuscation, in this instance?

    1. Down in your part of liberalworld, what occurs in the lives of our many good decent citizens that keeps them from apologizing for such piddle?

    2. I think eb is apologizing for piddle.

  5. All the good points notwithstanding, why do you suppose Bob Somerby has so studiously avoided the role played by the Huffington Post throughout the years?

  6. What's the name of Krugman's rhetorical trick? As Bob pointed, out, Cruz is not ignorant of policy matters, the way Trump and Carson are, nor has Cruz been making false statements. Krugman wrote:
    ... the triumvirate of trash-talk—Mr. Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz—now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.

    But how can this be happening? After all, the antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error.

    In this passage, Krugman appears to be accusing Cruz of being ignorant of policy and making false statements. If questioned, Krugman could say that the "anti-establishment candidates dominating the field" meant only Trump and Carson.

    Krugman's rhetorical trick probably has a name. It's something like "guilt by association", although the "association" is in Krugman's decision to put the three together in a sentence.

    1. How many commies can you count in the faculty at Harvard Law?

    2. You're referring to an offhand comment Cruz made three years ago. He was calling Social Justice Warriors "communists" because their philosophy is based on Marxism.

    3. You might try using this Google thing. The first result of a search for "false statements by Ted Cruz" finds this rather lengthy list, compiled by Polifact Texas, in partnership with the Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News:

      Ted Cruz may or may not be well-informed, but it seems rather clear that many of his assertions fail to comport with reality.

      Also this. What do you call the rhetorical trick of using Mr. Somerby's assessment of Mr. Cruz's knowledgeability as purported proof that Prof. Krugman's different assessment is somehow dishonest?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Thanks for the link, eb. Some of Politifact Texas' charges are probably valid; others are bogus.

      E.g., Politifact Texas says Cruz lied about boys showering with girls, because "transgendered girls aren't boys." At best, this is a definitional difference. I'd venture to guess than an overwhelming majority would say that boys (physically) who claim to be "transgendered girls" may properly be referred to as "boys".

      PolitifactTexas says "Contradictions aren’t hard to find" regarding Cruz's claim that "the jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws, almost without exception … have the highest crime rates and the highest murder rates." But, the word "almost" in Cruz's statement acknowledges that there are some exceptions. Cruz's statement is actually true.

      Cruz said, the Iran deal "trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves." Cruz was right, about one specific area. The AP reported, "An unusual secret agreement with a U.N. agency will allow Iran to use its own experts to inspect a site allegedly used to develop nuclear arms, according to a document seen by The Associated Press."

      Some corrections are quibbles. "Cruz said median wage for women had dropped. The correction says that's wrong, although one measure of median income for women did drop. Because Cruz said "wage" rather than "income", he's called a liar.

      One correction is of an opinion, rather than a factual claim. Cruz said, "The Iran Deal will facilitate and accelerate the nation of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons." Perhaps he guessed that the money released to Iran would accelerate nuclear develoment. Anyhow, his statement is neither true nor false. It's a guess about the future.

      The correction of Cruz's comparison of military spending to tax compliance costs acknowledged that Cruz was right under one measure of these two items. He was called a liar because under some other measure, the two figures would differ.

      One correction is a silly quibble. Cruz said about half our Presidents had been Senators and half had been Governors. PolitiFactTexas called Cruz a liar because 37 percent had been senators and 42 percent had been governors.

      Some of the corrections do appear valid, but it's pretty clear that PolitiFact Texas has an animus toward Cruz.

    6. Shorter David in Cal @ 3:26 & 5:31 - argle bargle.

    7. Transgender girls are not boys. Transgender boys are not girls. This is a matter of law not opinion.

    8. Voters in the liberal city of Houston don't agree with that law. They defeated an equal rights proposition by a wide margin, on the grounds that it would allow men in womens' bathrooms.



    10. 'liberal Houston"

      More argle bargle.

  7. BS attacking liberals again while ignoring right wing lies.

    1. When liberals attack liberal candidates, who is left to defend them against the right?

      I have been watching the way Sanders supporters have been going after Hillary Clinton these past few days, as if she had anything to do with the debacle. They have manufactured lies, conspiracy theories and outrage when Sanders staff was the perpetrator and Clinton the victim. This is why conservatives win. Liberals need to wake up and join forces, not find common cause with conservatives just because they like one Democrat better than another.

    2. Yes liberals need to wake up and realize that BS is not a liberal.

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  9. Bob I love what you do, but with all due respect journalistic malfeasance and the sins of election 2000 have nothing to do with the rise of Trump in 2016.

    Trump's rise is due not to the failure of our press, but to the failure of our ruling elites.

    For 50 years the elites of both Right and Left have busied themselves flooding our borders with cheap labor, destroying our sovereignty with job-killing international trade agreements, wasting our treasure and the blood of our young on endless wars for corporations and Israel, and subsidizing the growth of a permanent feral underclass through never-ending welfare and associated transfer payments.

    Working and middle class whites are watching the America they and their ancestors knew, loved, and trusted die a brutal, slow death at the hands of elites that have nothing but contempt for them.

    These citizens are the great silent majority and they are PISSSED. I cannot emphasize that enough. In Donald Trump they have finally found a champion. He speaks to their anxieties and hopes. He may be completely full of sh*t (its too early to tell), but if he means what he says he represents the last, best hope for American greatness.

    Otherwise we will have civil war, partition, and/or dictatorship.

    1. Poor butthurt white maj.

    2. Bring on the civil war. I'll be fighting on the side of black Americans.

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