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Krugman: Pundits Still Getting Sequester and Budget Debates Wrong | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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Krugman: Pundits Still Getting Sequester and Budget Debates Wrong

Last week, we had some fun with Bob Woodward’s ludicrous lie about a mythical threat from the White House warning him that he might find a horse’s head in his bed one morning (or something) if he kept getting the current budget and sequester debate wrong. But the issue of press malfeasnance on this subject is deadly serious. We’ve explored various angles on this in the past, but an incident this weekend perfectly reveals how the game has been played.

Last night, you could practically hear Paul Krugman cackling as he observed in a blog post at the New York Times site that, once again, he had been proven right and a certain critic wrong. But in this case, the wayward critic was not the usual know-nothing pundit or GOP congressman but the estimable Ezra Klein. Actually, Krugman was hailing Klein—for “manning up” and admitting he had been wrong in his latest Washington Post column.

Before we get to that, consider Krugman’s wider point:

Meanwhile, it’s not just Republicans who refuse to accept it when Obama gives them what they want; the same applies, with even less justification, to centrist pundits. As people like Greg Sargent point out time and again, the centrist ideal—deficit reduction via a mix of revenue increases and benefits cuts—is what Obama is already offering; in fact, his proposals have been to the right of Bowles-Simpson. Yet the centrist pundits keep demanding that Obama offer what he has already offered, and condemn both sides equally (or even place most of the blame on Obama) for the failure to reach a deal. Again, informing them of their error wouldn’t help; their whole shtick is about blaming both sides, and they will always invent some reason why Obama just isn’t doing it right.

What sparked this commentary? Klein had written that the failure to reach a compromise on a budget deal was mainly (or at least partly) caused by a tragic “failure to communicate.” Some Republicans in Congress simply did now know about key Obama concessions, such as agreeing to cave on “chained” cost-of-living entitlement increases. If they were more aware of that, who knows, they might be willing to accept the very good deal being offered by the White House.

However, Jonathan Chait at The New Republic quickly informed Klein that he was probably all wet. Klein was giving the GOPers the benefit of a doubt in suggesting some of them were simply ignorant rather willfully misguided (if you can call that something to be proud of). The Republicans, he said, would not accept anything coming from the White House and would keep moving the goal posts—which Bob Woodward claimed was what Obama was doing—rather than budge one inch on any tax increase.

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That’s not exactly an original claim, so how did Chait prove it—enough to inspire Klein to admit he was wrong? Chait reproduced a chain of tweets from Saturday involving the longtime GOP strategist and campaign manager Mike Murphy, who is known as something of a “moderate” in the current far-right party. It’s too much to reproduce here, so go to Chait’s column or Klein’s response, but basically, even the somewhat sensible Murphy displays in “real time” that GOP moving-the-goal-posts scenario.

Krugman (above left) summarizes it this way: the “Twitter exchange lets Klein watch that process in real time, as a top Republican consultant, confronted with evidence that Obama has already conceded what he said was all that was needed, keeps adding more demands.”

Klein’s reassessment: The Murphy “series of missives on the subject today offered an unusually clear view of where the GOP actually is in the budget debate, and why there was really no alternative to the sequester. There’s no deal even if Obama agrees to major Republican demands on entitlements. There’s no deal because Republicans don’t want to make a deal that includes taxes, no matter what they get in return for it.”

And Krugman makes an interesting final point on new forms of “investigative” journalism: “Anyway, props to Ezra—and is the use of Twitter exchanges to document political hypocrisy a new frontier in reporting?”

Bradley Manning might never have jump-started WikiLeaks if he had gotten ahold of The New York Times. Greg Mitchell covers the media matters raised by Manning’s testimony.

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