Paul Krugman is shocked! shocked! (albeit not surprised) that Republicans are exhibiting a certain amount of Schadenfreude when it comes to the rebuff the IOC delivered to Barack Obama:
So what did we learn from this moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.
But more important, the episode illustrated an essential truth about the state of American politics: at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it — whether or not it’s good for America.
To be sure, while celebrating America’s rebuff by the Olympic Committee was puerile, it didn’t do any real harm. But the same principle of spite has determined Republican positions on more serious matters, with potentially serious consequences — in particular, in the debate over health care reform.
Mr. Bookworm thinks Krugman is right. Principled Americans, he says, would never insult the president or wish him ill, nor would they turn their back on a policy simply because they don’t like the president advancing the policy. (This from the man whose political argument for four years was alternately “Bush is an idiot” or “Bush is the worst president ever.”)
I might give actually give Mr. Krugman’s spiteful, partisan insults some credence if, during the eight years of Bush’s presidency, we had ever seen him side with the president on policies or even speak nicely of the President, his administration and his allies. Indeed, we might give him credence if he’d just spoken of those on the opposite side of the aisle with some minimal level of civility and respect.
As it is, hearing preaching about politeness from Krugman is like having Homer Simpson giving you diet advice — it doesn’t sit well, considering the source. During the past administration, when Krugman might have put his personal prejudices aside to advance his country’s interests his whole focus was on denigrating the president, personally and politically, often in the crudest, most insulting terms. In just one year alone, we got things like this:
Why doesn’t Mr. Bush get any economic respect? I think it’s because most Americans sense, correctly, that he doesn’t care about people like them. We’re living in a time when many Americans are feeling economically insecure, but a tiny elite has been growing incredibly rich. And Mr. Bush’s problem is that he identifies so totally with the lucky, wealthy few that in unscripted settings he can’t manage even a few sentences of empathy with ordinary Americans. He doesn’t feel your pain, and it shows.
A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, “attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance.” Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations — scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations — are secretly coordinating their actions.
But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren’t part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn’t do such a thing.
[Regarding James Hansen, the NASA climatologist who was discredited] And it’s a warning for Mr. Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue: you’re going to have to get tougher, because the other side [that would be us] doesn’t play by any known rules.
John Kerry, a genuine war hero, didn’t realize that he could successfully be portrayed as a coward. And it seems to me that Dr. Hansen, whose predictions about global warming have proved remarkably accurate, didn’t believe that he could successfully be portrayed as an unreliable exaggerator. His first response to Dr. Michaels, in January 1999, was astonishingly diffident. He pointed out that Dr. Michaels misrepresented his work, but rather than denouncing the fraud involved, he offered a rather plaintive appeal for better behavior.
Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.
But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in.
After Ned Lamont’s victory in Connecticut, I saw a number of commentaries describing Joe Lieberman not just as a “centrist” — a word that has come to mean “someone who makes excuses for the Bush administration” — but as “sensible.” But on what planet would Mr. Lieberman be considered sensible?
The question now is how deep into the gutter Mr. Lieberman’s ego will drag him.
There’s an overwhelming consensus among national security experts that the war in Iraq has undermined, not strengthened, the fight against terrorism. Yet yesterday Mr. Lieberman, sounding just like Dick Cheney — and acting as a propaganda tool for Republicans trying to Swift-boat the party of which he still claims to be a member — suggested that the changes in Iraq policy that Mr. Lamont wants would be “taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.”
In other words, not only isn’t Mr. Lieberman sensible, he may be beyond redemption. [This is polite political rhetoric?]
We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration’s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever. [Never mind that, on this same administration's watch, we were spared another attack on American soil.]
So why is the Bush administration so determined to torture people?
To show that it can.
The central drive of the Bush administration — more fundamental than any particular policy — has been the effort to eliminate all limits on the president’s power. Torture, I believe, appeals to the president and the vice president precisely because it’s a violation of both law and tradition. By making an illegal and immoral practice a key element of U.S. policy, they’re asserting their right to do whatever they claim is necessary.
So this is how Krugman’s game is played: to insult Bush at every level is not impolite, destructive political discourse, because Bush deserved it. Anyone who would challenge such liberal shibboleths as global warming, John Kerry’s heroism, the need to extend Constitutional and Geneva protections to un-uniformed Islamist terrorists, America’s base nature, etc., is evil, so its okay to pick on them.
To insult Obama at any level or to disagree with his policies, however, is tantamount to treason and corrupts political discourse, because every Obama initiative is, by its very nature and source, good for America. This is so because Obama stands for truth, justice and the American way, provided that the American way is to destroy the American economy to prevent the increasingly chimerical global warming, to grovel to dictators and tyrants, to be extraordinarily boastful and infused with hubris, to offend America’s long-standing allies, and to have a government takeover of the American health care system.
Krugman’s standard for political discourse is “free speech for me, but not for thee.” He should be laughed at, not lauded. Krugman shows, once again, that he is an intelletual joke, whose partisanship is so overwhelming it blinds him to his gross hypocrisy.