Kaus v. Straw Man
As I mentioned Friday, conservative bloggers love to attack Paul Krugman. What's interesting, though, is that they rarely fight him on the issues, but, rather, find some bit or piece of his column to argue with which is at best peripheral to the column's point. Take the column I mentioned Friday for example: Krugman wrote a wonderfully cogent essay which showed that, despite his stated goal of "changing the tone in Washington," that tone has gotten much, much worse. He used examples of Senators Gramm and Grassley comparing Democrats to Hitler -- just because they disagree with Republicans on tax policy. The argument is there. The examples are there. The point, my friends, is made.
Yet, Mickey Kaus, a chief anti-Krugman fanatic, has decided to attack the column. It's deliciously illustrated, though, that he can't argue with the substance. Instead, he calls Krugman an egomaniacal ideologue who hates Bush and uses a single sentence -- an aside about Michael Kinsley coming late to the realization that Bushies are unable to uphold a solid argument -- to prove his point. (Scroll down to "Krugman vs. Kinsley.") Anyone who reads the column in question will see that A) this is a ridiculous sidebar and B) Krugman's right.
Kaus tries to say that Krugman is taking apart a rival and elbowing out his competition as head Bush-basher: "Kinsley's a challenger for the same ecological niche Krugman occupies, so Krugman has to somehow establish dominance by not-so-subtly boasting that he bashed Bush first ....True, this is a cheap armchair Darwinian analysis, but in my experience cheap armchair Darwinian analysis is almost always right." (Because we want to deal with his substance, we'll let that last sentence slide, but you should feel free to consider that gem at your leisure.) The point of Krugman's article is that conservatives talk bipartisanship, but their walk is pure party line. You're either with them or you're a Nazi terrorist sympathizer. While Kinsley has made excellent points showing the Bushies lack of substance, he's only recently come around to realizing that the Administration doesn't want an honest debate or a fair fight. That's Krugman's point -- that Kinsley, among others, has been very good at pointing out the weakness of Bush's punch, but has been looking the other way while he gets in low blows.
P.S. Make time to read Krugman's excellent essay in the NYT Magazine about how the rich are just getting richer and you're getting screwed.