PART 2—KRUGMAN’S WARNING: Paul Krugman thinks he knows why Candidate Romney selected Candidate Ryan.
He offered his theory in a recent blog post. We don’t know if he’s right:
KRUGMAN (8/13/12): So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is—as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand—about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.Is that why Romney picked Candidate Ryan—to win the love of a few hundred journalists?
So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.
So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.
For ourselves, we have no idea. Beyond that, we wish Krugman would rein in such speculations. Our guess? They undermine the role he could and should be playing as Trusted Smart Man of the Left.
That said, Krugman is right in his account of the press corps’ traditional take on Ryan. He describes this long love affair in the central part of his post—though even here, he overdoes the mind-reading just a tad:
KRUGMAN: Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air—huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.Krugman is certainly right concerning the novelization of Ryan. Our political “press corps” is deeply childish. In recent decades, it has tended to agree on silly, infantilized fantasy versions of certain political figures.
So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good—a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.
The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.
In 1999, Candidates Bradley and McCain were novelized as The Last Honest Men. Before them, so was Potential Candidate Powell.
All three men ended up like the sanctified Coach Paterno, lying in the press corps’ faces. Inevitably, this is where it leads when the press corps builds fawning Boys’ Life novels about deeply ambitious public figures.
Ambitious pols will take advantage when the children agree to pretend that they're saints. The press corps virtually mandates their misconduct when they fawn to them so.
At any rate, McCain, Powell and Bradley were novelized as The Last Honest Men. Bold Smart Courageous Congressman Ryan has received similar treatment, just as Krugman describes.
In effect, these childish scribes have behaved like Ryan's sons and daughters.
That doesn’t mean that Ryan was picked for this reason. Nor is it clear that pundits have treated Ryan this way for the reasons Krugman describes. Do commentators “want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good?” Or could the story be somewhat simpler? Are they simply bending to the rise of conservative power in Washington, as they did when they spent a decade demonizing both Clintons, then Gore?
We hate it when Krugman mind-reads in simplistic ways; we think such conduct may undermine his influence. That said, there is no doubt that Ryan has been novelized by the press corps in the way Krugman describes.
Good God! As recently as April 2011, such fiery liberals as Ezra Klein and Jacob Weisberg fell all over themselves, praising Bold Ryan’s Outstanding Great Character—before they were forced to acknowledge that the numbers in his new budget plan were fake, phony, fraudulent, bogus.
Why did Weisberg and Klein fawn? We can’t tell you. But the press had been treating Ryan the way for several years by that time.
Back to Krugman’s recent post, which correctly described that syndrome:
As Krugman ended his post, he challenged “the news media” to drop the crap about Ryan (see text above). And sure enough! On balance, we’d have to say that the fawning has been greatly reduced this past week. Two examples:
In Monday’s Washington Post, Matt Miller savaged The Last Smart Courageous Man. He said Ryan’s basic political stance is phony—a con and a fraud. And not only that:
In this morning’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd savages Ryan in a way she normally reserves for the wives of major Democrats.
Some of the old foolishness has been present since Ryan's selection (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/14/12), but it has been vastly reduced. This brings us to the note of concern which played in Krugman’s post.
On MSNBC, the children have been happy this week. They’re sure that Romney’s choice of Ryan has doomed any chance he had.
Krugman’s post carried a different sense. Quite sensibly, he seemed to fear that Ryan’s selection might tip the press corps’ coverage of Romney, taking us back to the bad old days when they pimped plain-spoken Bush as a plain-spoken man you could trust.
Is that possible? And could the public get fooled by such coverage? Let’s look again at what Krugman said about the treatment of Candidate Bush. In this passage, he links to a post by Jonathan Chait—a truly remarkable post:
KRUGMAN: So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is—as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand—about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.Yes, there is a danger here—and yes, it’s related to a pattern which extends through Campaign 2000 and into the Clinton years. Voters would be better equipped to see this pattern if they understood the history of press corps behavior during that earlier era.
Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality...
But alas! We liberals have kept that history hidden over the course of the past dozen years. In Chait’s post, he basically lies in the public’s face about that vital history.
To examine Chait’s post, click here. It’s time to start telling the truth about people who lie as he does in that post—and about the other people who allow them to do so.
Tomorrow: There’s no way on earth
"George W. Bush in 2000 successfully convinced the campaign press corps that Al Gore was a serial liar, and when the press pack suddenly decided in October of that year that Al Gore’s lies were the story of the race, his poll numbers fatally swooned. Many undecided voters pay little attention to the issues and simply form impressions of the candidates, rooted in broad personal appraisal."ReplyDelete
There's a lot of truth in there, Bob.
It isn't entirely true that it was the Bush campaign that "convinced" the press Gore was a liar -- many of them were eagerly pursuing that line, inventing lies all on their own.
It isn't at all true that the press "suddenly" decided to make Gore a liar only in October 2000 -- that press fatuity had been ongoing, with great intensity, for many months by that time.
It isn't true that the decision to focus on "personal" issues, is one made by voters, as if in some kind of vacuum -- the press has already made the decision for them in a sense, by choosing to devote themselves to character trivia rather than the substance of issues.
But it IS true that the press decided that Gore was a liar.
It IS true that the press helped kill Gore's poll lead by generating these fictions.
And it IS true that a lot of voters don't have (or don't feel they have) the time to understand all of the issues and so decide their votes based on "personal appraisal."
Certainly, you'll be told by some fools that understanding what happened to Gore is irrelevant, old news. Those idiots can properly be ignored.
But is it really fair to characterize Chait's post simply as lying in the public's face? Isn't there plenty of merit here also? Maybe overall merit on balance?
Certainly, it's arguable at least.
The problem is that it is virtually certain Chait knows that description is false. So what are we to make of that?Delete
Maybe the idiots should not be ignored, since that's such an easy proposition to accept. It's showing the pattern that has a chance of exposing the press as an industry and changing its behavior. What if CJR, Poynter and nationally-recognized and highly circulated columnists show how the press has been novelizing candidate since the Clinton era?
What influence? Krugman--who I like, and respect, and think has been 'more right' than just about anyone...has no influence. Except over those who tend to agree with him to begin with. Sure, he may induce a moment, brief moment, ,where would-be liberal Dems are uncomfortable as they go about selling the Middle Class out, albeit a bit slower than the GOP. But other than that? They don't give a damn what he says. Krugman is branded. So go ahead Paul, speak you damn mind. Speculate, mind read, whatever. You are still miles ahead of most in giving us something worthwhile and meaningful to contemplate. A hundred years from now they will look back--to the extent anyone looks back-- on your "speculations" Paul with more respect, a hell of a lot more respect, than they will 99% of 'hard reporting'.ReplyDelete
One little skirmish at a time. That's the best we can do.Delete
It did get us a President in 2008 who, for all his failures to pull us out of the morass of Republican economic dialogue, who did a few good things the other guy would not have done.
"...the great gop/new-left tools..."ReplyDelete
i see the new 'left' as a long-run effective extension of the right.
out of order...see my main comment if it stays up.Delete
"*it is likely the ryan ethnic heritage is only half irish-catholic."ReplyDelete
>>> like reagan and mccarthy
out of order...see main commentDelete
my main comment has been deleted twice now.ReplyDelete
out of order...see may main comment if it stays up.Delete
“Do commentators “want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good?” Or could the story be somewhat simpler? Are they simply bending to the rise of conservative power in Washington, as they did when they spent a decade sermonizing both Clintons, then Gore?” - b. somerbyReplyDelete
>>> somerby correctly questions krugmans analysis. although quite interesting as a general theory, its lacking here.
as somerby suggests, the media have been over the years bowing to the rise of the radical right. but specifically with regard to paul ryan, the media moneyed interests and the moneyed interests generally found a way that they could avoid getting hurt too bad in the eyes of the american public now or in the history books. 'we' americans with an irish-catholic heritage -- as though we are a coherent social group -- will shoulder the blame, largely deflecting it away from the true malefactors.
the perennial american scapegoat, another american with an irish-catholic heritage in the person of paul ryan*, was found to take the blame for the austerity measures, should they come to pass. ryan takes his place among the great gop/new-left tools like reagan and mccarthy.
*like reagan and mccarthy before him, the ryan ethnic heritage is only half irish-catholic.
Yeah, that's the general view of Reagan:Delete
That Irish-Catholic American who is generally blamed for messing everything up -- the way we always scapegoat an Irish-Catholic American for our troubles.
Seriously, lowercaseguy, you need some professional help.
yes reagan was protestant, not catholic by religion. but his father was of irish-catholic heritage, hence the perceived inherited irish-catholic heritage of ronald reagan.Delete
the term 'irish-catholic' is commonly used to indicate a particular *ethnicity* as it is the common wisdom that irish-protestant is different ethnically, not just religiously.
[actually the the latest gene-based research shows that not only are the irish orange and green identical genetically, so are the welsh and scots. and also the english who only show a minimal legacy from the germanic invasions 6% and roman occupation (2%). see “Saxons, Vikings and Celts: the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland” by Bryan Sykes or “Origins of the British” by Stephen Oppenheimer.]
"...[reagan]who is generally blamed for messing everything up..."Delete
i assume youre being sarcastic here. but do you ever tune in to progressive radio and their callers-in? two which come to mind which ive heard are the thomas hartmann and norman goldman shows.
"i assume youre being sarcastic here"Delete
That would be a good assumption, lowercaseguy, perhaps your first one!
You will convince exactly no one that your genetic/religious/ethnic analyses are contributing to anything that approaches *understanding* -- especially when your "theory" relies on such hilarious nonsense as:
"the perennial american scapegoat, another american with an irish-catholic heritage in the person of paul ryan*, was found to take the blame for the austerity measures, should they come to pass. ryan takes his place among the great gop/new-left tools like reagan and mccarthy."
You're loopy! Get real help. But maybe I'm just picking on you because of your ethnic background!
you quote me as saying: "ryan takes his place among the great gop/new-left tools like reagan and mccarthy."Delete
>>> the reason i include the new left or cultural left here is because i see them as an effective long-term extension of the rightwing in america. . . . and thank you for your concern.
On Saturday, Mitt Romney introduced his running mate, Paul Ryan, describing their shared ideals and shared vision for America.
The two, evidently, do not share a tailor.
Romney, with carefully rolled sleeves and an ice-blue tie, looked polished, the way presidential candidates often do.
But Ryan (Wis.) appeared rumpled, slightly sloppy for a vice-presidential candidate. As if he’d flown in hours before and mistakenly picked up someone else’s suitcase. His pants sagged at his ankles. His starched, white shirt bunched at his stomach. His dark jacket drooped, better suited for a man of the cloth than a man on a presidential ticket.
New York Times catches up with Washington Post.Delete
My editor asked me to write a critique of the two men’s attire on the day of the announcement in Virginia, thinking there might be something in their casual look.
The idea of politicians deliberating over what message their clothing conveys enchants editors. They tend to overestimate the effects of a generic blazer or give too much credit to mysterious back-room handlers. It amounts to an idealization of the image-making process, a hoax. In truth, there are no real differences of style and message in the clothing of the current presidential candidates, which is too bad.
But one thing bugged me about Mr. Ryan’s appearance on the day of the announcement in Virginia, on the symbolic deck of a battleship. He had on a blazer with an open-neck shirt and dark trousers; Mr. Romney was in his familiar shirt sleeves and a tie. Polished but relaxed. Yet if Mr. Ryan was chosen to bring youth and vigor and a kind of Ayn Rand boldness to the G.O.P., as the commentators kept saying, then his jacket was killing it.
i heard james carville, the renowned strategist, interviewed shortly after the ryan introduction event. his first comment was about the possible significance of ryan not wearing a tie and he was serious as far as i could tell.ReplyDelete