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January 21, 2010

on Krugman's giving up

I've posted more narrowly about politics than I like to lately, but I can't resist responding to Paul Krugman's piece entitled "He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For." Krugman writes, "Maybe House Democrats can pull this out, even with a gaping hole in White House leadership. ... But I have to say, I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in."

1. Obama never said he was the one we were waiting for. He said (quoting a line from the Civil Rights Movement): "We're the one's we've been waiting for." This was in the context of explicitly arguing that change does not come from the top down, but from the bottom up. The lack of bottom-up pressure for health reform is a major reason why the bill is being dropped. No major progressive organizations or movements really fought for a bill that could pass Congress, and you can't win a legislative battle without grassroots support.

2. Krugman has been giving up on Barack Obama every few weeks since before the Iowa Caucuses. Krugman certainly wasn't waiting for Obama; he was predicting his failure. The President gets under Krugman's skin because he won't say what Krugman believes--for example, that Republicans are evil. We would all like to hear the President of the United States say what we happen to think, and it is frustrating when he says something different. But expressing Krugman's thoughts would be lousy politics, not to mention that Obama doesn't agree with them.

3. The diagnosis that this is all Obama's fault seems crazy to me. What about the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Raul Grijalva, rejecting the Senate bill and proposing, out of sheer spite, that the Senate should vote on each element of the House bill, one at a time? Or what about the anti-abortion caucus in the House? Or Evan Bayh? Or Nancy Pelosi declaring that the bill is dead? Or Barney Frank?

Krugman's myopic focus on the White House makes sense only if he holds a Great Man Theory of History--and Obama is not great enough for him--or if the President just fundamentally bugs him by being too publicly polite to Republicans.

January 21, 2010 2:37 PM | category: none



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