Krugman outlines a major misstatement!


But the New York Times offers no fact-check: This morning, in his New York Times column, Paul Krugman outlines a major misstatement by Mitt Romney at Wednesday night’s debate.

What do you call a misstatement like this? As his column begins, Krugman samples various names:
KRUGMAN (10/5/12): Romney's Sick Joke

“No. 1,” declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” No, they aren’t—as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate.

Was Mr. Romney lying? Well, either that or he was making what amounts to a sick joke. Either way, his attempt to deceive voters on this issue was the biggest of many misleading and/or dishonest claims he made over the course of that hour and a half. Yes, President Obama did a notably bad job of responding. But I’ll leave the theater criticism to others and talk instead about the issue that should be at the heart of this election.
Krugman flirted with several names for Romney’s misstatement—a totally absent-minded mistake his campaign has corrected before.

Krugman suggested that Romney may have been “lying.” He flatly said that Romney had made an “attempt to deceive voters on this issue.”

He said that Romney made many claims in the course of the evening which were “misleading and/or dishonest claims.”

A “misleading” claim may be unintentional. A “dishonest” claim is not.

The claim in question involves health care—a matter of life and death. According to Krugman, tens of millions of people are involved in the sweep of Romney’s false statement.

For the full discussion, you should read Krugman’s column. Regarding the question of what to call it, this is where Krugman ends up:
KRUGMAN: One could wish that Mr. Obama had made this point effectively in the debate. He had every right to jump up and say, “There you go again”: Not only was Mr. Romney’s claim fundamentally dishonest, it has already been extensively debunked, and the Romney campaign itself has admitted that it’s false.

For whatever reason, the president didn’t do that, on health care or on anything else. But, as I said, never mind the theater criticism. The fact is that Mr. Romney tried to mislead the public, and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
What did Krugman end up calling it? Romney’s claim was “fundamentally dishonest,” he said. Romney “tried to mislead the public.”

Excitable children like to throw the L-bomb—“lie”—all around. In most cases, this represents an excellent way to lose a political argument. That said, Romney is one of the great dissemblers in modern American political history.

The example Krugman cites involves life and death—and Romney’s campaign has corrected this absent-minded “mistake” before. This leads us to Krugman’s question:

Will Romney be allowed to get away with it? What will the press corps do?

Incredibly, there is no fact-check feature today in our hard-copy Times! But then, there was also no fact-check feature yesterday in our hard-copy Times.

Looking on-line, we see there was a fact-check feature in yesterday’s later hard-copy editions (click here). The Times seems a bit cavalier about getting this feature to us rubes who receive the "Washington Edition."

In the old days, such basic features were published in early editions one day late.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s fact-check didn’t discuss the inaccurate statement Krugman discusses. This isn't Krugman’s fault, of course. But might we rewrite his last paragraph?

The fact is that Mr. Romney tried to mislead the public. The New York Times fact-check feature didn't do diddly about it.

This isn't Krugman's fault, of course. But for oodles of New York Times readers, Candidate Romney was allowed to get away with this!


  1. Excuse me, but didn't you say that Krugman's column was published in the New York Times? If so, then how was Romney allowed to get away with this lie in the pages of the NYT?

    Oh, I get it! Once again, it wasn't done exactly how Bob Somerby prescibes it always must be done, ergo, it was never done at all, and those poor NYT readers remain completely uninformed.

  2. There's a big difference between an Op-Ed column and a fact checking news column. People expect the former to express the author's point of view and spin on the facts, while the latter is considered to be more factual hard news and authoritative. I don't necessarily agree with those stereotypes, especially where Krugmanis concerned, but they accurately reflect the views of most readers.

    1. Oh, puhleeze! Are you seriously trying to tell me that "fact check" columns are always "factual hard news and authoritative"?

      If you truly believe that, and that those are the only forums in which "dishonesty" can be effectively dealt with, then my question to you is what is the make, model and year of the turnip truck you just fell off?

    2. You really know how to set up those straw men and bowl them over. I never said or intended any of the stuff you came up with in your reply. The difference between an Op-Ed and a fact checking story is pretty self-evident.

  3. Romney's plan does cover pre-existing conditions. After all, Romney's plan is whatever he says it is, and he says it will cover them. See I think he really means it, because Romneycare covers pre-existing conditions.

    The real question is whether Romney's plan will work. I personaly doubt it. If "working" means delivering the promised benefits for the predicted cost, then most government health plans failed. E.g., Medicare's actual cost was over ten times its predicted cost. All sides agree that it's unsustainable.

    Romney's plan is a "pig in a poke". So is Obama's plan. Romney would allow the states to create a variety of health plans, but nobody knows what those plans would be. Obama's plan allows a 15-person committee and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to grossly modify the plan. Nobody knows what they will do.

    1. David, it's hard to say what Romney's "plan" is, because he has never offered one.

      Back in June when the Supreme Court upheld "Obamacare," his mantra was "Repeal and replace." When he wouldn't/couldn't answer the obvious question, "Replace with what?" he eventually came up with, "Do it state by state."

      Which means, repeal Obamacare and replace it with . . . nothing.

      So basically, under his latest let-each-state-decide "plan," there is no guarantee that states will even enact their own health insurance plans, or, that in those that do, that there is any guarantee of what those plans will or will not cover, including pre-existing conditions.

    2. First, what we know of Romney's current healthcare plan only covers pre-existing conditions so long as the patient has maintained continuous health-insurance coverage, something that would exist without Obamacare. It wouldn't cover preexisting conditions if the patient is uninsured or has coverage gaps. Thus, Romney was being mendacious about his health plan regarding preexisting conditions in the debate such that his staff "corrected his claim that "number one, preexting conditions are covered in my plan" right after the debate.

      Second, the Demos - not Romney - required inclusion of preexisting-gap coverage in Romneycare.

      Having said that, DinC and all of us should be concerned concerned about Romney's objective of relegating health insurance to the Statesto support his tax-cut scheme.

      A perfect example of this concern continues to exist in Arizona, where the Governor Ahatollah Brewer has removed AHCCCS (medicade) from the reach of otherwise qualified adults who are childless and who decided to remove organ-transplant coverage to the impoverished so that she could minimize cuts to the State of Arizona's contribution to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

  4. Anon #2:

    The Op-Ed pages are a the back of the first section and are not nearly as widely read as the headlines.

    Anon #1 has a valid point. The last two pages are for opinions and editorializing (and letters), hence, Op-Ed. It is understood that the columnist are interpreting events through their own bias.

    The Republican presidential candidate mischaracterized his platform. It was a gross mischaracterization, an egregious one. His misleading stance concerns an issue of life and death that affects tens of millions. He made this statement during a presidential debate viewed by tems of millions. He has made this misstatement in the past and was forced to correct himself for it in the past. In a normal world this, by itself, would constitute "news." This would merit a front page report the day after the debate.

    Readers of the New York Times have had to wait for days in order to read Krugman's "opinion" on the subject at the back of the first section. Are you seriously trying to tell us that this means the New York Times has lived up to its journalistic responsbility? Because if you are, well [insert some variation on lame cliche about naivete]

    1. Days? Good grief, the debate was Wednesday night. This is Friday morning.

      So the NYT failed to live up to your definition of "journalistic responsibility" because they didn't say -- on deadline -- exactly what you wanted them to say, in exactly the way you wanted them to say it, and in exactly the spot you wanted them to put it.

      That's not naivete. That's narcissism.

    2. Anon:

      More than a day later = days later, by definition. There was nothing so difficult about pointing out Romney's misleading statement that necessitated another day of news to pass by. Hell, the new york times has even figured out how to give sports next-day treatment.

      As for the rest of it, you can bullshit around my point all you want with your loaded language about "exactly this" and exactly that," but my point still stands: not treating Romney's misstatement as "news", and instead passing the task of reporting on it to an opinion columnist, yes, that constitutes an abdication of journalistic responsibility.

    3. And all this time I thought there were 24 hours in a day. Which means that "days" would have to be at least 2 x 24.

      I can see you have absolutely no understanding of how newspaper journalism works.

      Allow me to explain. On the debate night, the reporters had to report what happened in front of them as objectively as possible, and get it in by deadline. That is their role.

      The role of the newspaper "fact checker" is to carefully research the variety of claims both candidates made then come to some sort of judgment based on evidence.

      Bear in mind, this is much different than "blogging" where you get to write any damned fool thing you want, or even television "fact checking" which will be forgotten in about 10 minutes.

      What you write in a newspaper is permanent, in black and white. You had better damned well get it right.

      That, sir, is not the "abdication of journalistic responsibility." It is the very essence of it.

    4. "What you write in a newspaper is permanent, in black and white. You had better damned well get it right."

      Oh please, enough of the jokes, I'm dying laughing.

    5. Right. Nothing printed in a newspaper is true.

      But they sure as hell better "fact check" everything said in a debate within minutes and put it on my front lawn the very next morning, or else all those other stupid people will be uninformed and Western civilization will collapse as we know it.

      So which is it? Are newspapers a joke, or do they serve a vital purpose, especially during political campaigns?

  5. Bob? Why haven't you mentioned NYT's editorial published just hours after the debate that took Romney apart for his "misstatements"?

  6. My beef with Bob here is that he characterizes Romney's statement as "absent-minded." Sorry, but in order to call it absent-minded you have to be a mind reader, which none of us are. I think it is FAR more likely Romney, every time he makes this claim that his plan covers pre-existing conditions, knows exactly what he's doing. He knows it's a lie, but he also knows it may be reaching the ears of low-information voters who don't know it's a lie. The debate reaches precisely those low-information voters. They hear him make this claim. They do not read the coverage afterward on "Talking Points Memo" where his staffer immediately walks back the claim.

    I don't think there is anything "absent-minded" about the "misstatements" coming out of Romney or Ryan at this stage of the campaign.

    1. Exactly, and this was said while Somerby was chiding Krugman for calling the statement "misleading and/or dishonest" claiming it could be both since one is unintentional and one is not.

      Well, in one breath, Somerby calls Romney "one of the great dissemblers in modern American political history" and in the next he calls him "absent-minded."

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