William has written about how much Paul Krugman has been attacking Obama for Clinton's benefit, but today he has gone off the deep end. He begins by stoking old Democratic feelings by appealing to the classic hero and the classic villain:
In 1956 Adlai Stevenson, running against Dwight Eisenhower, tried to make the political style of his opponent’s vice president, a man by the name of Richard Nixon, an issue. The nation, he warned, was in danger of becoming “a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is Nixonland.”He goes on to say how he worries about division turning the Democratic party into "Nixonland." Of course, it's true that we've seen the race card pulled, threats of terrorism to inspire fear, and a desire to change the rules halfway through the race in Michigan, Florida, and Nevada, and all of this behavior is perfectly Nixonian. Still, who does Krugman see as the culprit?
I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again.I respect Krugman, but he must be smoking too much dope at this point. I think any one example of the Clinton's race-baiting can be explained away as misinterpreted (and of course he only refers to one), but you really have to have some blinders on not to see the whole set as calculated. The same thing goes for every low road the Clinton campaign has taken to counter Obama's success. To turn around and use the adjective "Nixonian" to describe Obama supporters is a twisting of reality that approaches doublespeak. I also think both Hillary and Obama have personalities and stories that raise a great deal of passion, much more than our last couple of Democratic nominees (Gore has developed a personality now that was not evident in 2000). Supporters of both candidates are truly inspired by them, and that's not a bad thing. By referring to a "cult of personality" and then bringing up "Operation Flight Suit," Krugman not only explicitly compares Obama to George Bush (!), but to Josef Stalin (!!!!). Paul Krugman is dangerously approaching an Ann Coulter style of "journalism," and that's way beneath him.
UPDATE: Almost immediately after I posted this, I checked sitemeter and saw that someone at Princeton had came by, connected to the site from a search on "Paul Krugman -- NY Times." I don't know if it was one of Prof. Krugman's students or the man himself, and as I said I do respect Krugman a great deal. I even share with him some of his reservations about Obama's health plan. Still, I think he did stoop low with this column. I checked out some of the other links on the search page, and it's interesting how emotional this is getting for supporters of both candidates. It makes me wonder what Krugman meant by "supporters of Obama" in his column. Most of the problems I have with statements supporting Hillary Clinton against Obama come from Hillary herself, her husband, from people in her campaign, or from people close enough to the Clinton campaign that it's hard to imagine their talking points were not vetted (I'm thinking about remarks made by Andrew Cuomo or Bob Kerrey, or the op-ed in the Times by Gloria Steinem). As far as other comments go, like the crazed rant against Ted Kennedy by Marcia Pappas of NY-NOW, who knows? I'm not sure it's fair to blame the Clinton campaign for those. I would like to know what supporters Krugman is talking about.
On my run through blogs concerning this column, it was interesting to see that there were people excoriating Krugman and others praising him. A comparison to Frank Rich's Sunday column came up a couple of times, which was either denounced as trash by pro-Hillary bloggers or held up as the good to Krugman's bad by Obamamites (I personally tend towards the latter opinion). One thing that surprised me was one pro-Hillary blogger who talked about how Obama's race-baiting was despicably low. Look -- the LBJ/MLK comment could have been misunderstood (though it was horribly insensitive to civil rights activists, black and white, who literally put their lives on the line during the Civil Rights movement, something that Krugman just does not get), and Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" comment may have been taken out of context (though once again, there is an insensitivity issue here), but there were just too many racial references coming out of the Clinton camp for it to be random. They introduced race into the campaign to brand Obama as the candidate for (and only for) the African-American population. That is wrong, and as one Clinton surrogate might put it, they can't "shuck and jive" their way out of it.
This column by Jason Linkins makes a couple of good points about Krugman's column: 1) he does not substantiate his claims in anyway, and 2) although it is true that some of the press has taken some nasty pot shots at Hillary Clinton, Obama's campaign has nothing to do with that. A side note: Linkins talks about how his wife has a problem with the chants of "Yes, we can." My wife, Imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis (who is a fervent Obama supporter) couldn't help pointing out that the crowds at Obama's speeches chanting "we want change" sounded a bit too much like "Imhotep... Imhotep... Imhotep..."
(Although to tell the truth, just watching Obama's speeches on TV, I find the energy of the crowds almost as exciting as his speeches -- the energy of the "we" that Obama always talks about, as opposed to the "I" that Hillary tends to use).