Paul Krugman’s Indefensible Defense of Barack Obama

October 24, 2014
Readers of Rolling Stone Magazine have long known what to expect from the bi-weekly’s acidulous commentaries:  anarchist screeds from the rather unbalanced Matt Taibbi; thinly researched and often specious investigative pieces from Tim Dickinson;  alarmist jeremiads from environmentalist hound dog Jeff Goodell and apoplectic harangues against Republicans, Tea Party groups and anyone else who espouses a right wing cause.  
The question, for those who regularly read genuinely powerful and well balanced commentary from other sources (from either the left OR right)  is: why bother with this stuff?  The unrepentant hippie-chic publication bathed in its love and peace- at-any-cost ethos, is in truth a hate mongering platform of the first order and in its advertising and feature articles on modern music and musicians often betrays a penchant for what used to be known as soft porn.  Can anyone really believe that this chronicle of modern nihilism has anything of importance to say about our national priorities?
You better believe it.   Rolling Stone’s influence today is far greater than any conservative gives it credit for and rather than being the standard bearer for long dormant 1960’s agitprop is in fact a mainstream publication, representing the views of a sizeable community within our intellectual classes. 
The magazine’s clout was ratcheted up several notches in 2010 when an article spotlighting Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal unveiled his antagonism to the Vice-President and several other senior members of the Obama Administration which in turn resulted in the General’s summary firing.  Since then the words of  such luminaries as Al Gore ( yes, but the man WAS Vice- President of the United States) and best selling authors such as Sebastian Junger and Stephen King have graced the magazine’s pages.  
Now comes an article by Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, which is proudly announced as a defense of Barack Obama. Not content with actually defending Obama’s record, Krugman in the body of his article goes a step further announcing: “Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.”
Hmm. Pretty bold stuff.  After all, this would have Barack Obama one day sipping martinis and chomping cigars with some of the greatest in American history. 
But can Barack Obama truly be spoken of in the same breath  as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln?
Perhaps so, but you would not actually know it from the arguments presented by Paul Krugman.  What you would learn instead  is that Barack Obama is a middling president who did the best he could with the cards he was played; that he was buffeted by an uncooperative Congress but  that he passed revolutionary health care reform legislation anyway- a remarkable success which will leave a lasting imprint on the nation. Then, after a cursory examination of  the President’s record on financial reform, the economy, the environment, national security and social change he concludes, almost with a sigh,  that” the extent of his partial success ranges from the pretty good to the not-so-bad to the ugly.”  In other words, although he might have received an overall “C” on his report card,  it was really not as bad a presidency as it could have been and it really could have been a lot worse.  Not exactly the exalted encomium we had been expecting but, hey, this is Paul Krugman – and when this modern day Oracle declares you mediocre  perhaps it actually means you are destined for greatness.  Mount Rushmore sculptors take heed:  Krugman has spoken; Prepare the mountain for its next great historical retrofit.
No one should mistake Krugman for an objective observer   – although he  has indeed been highly critical of the President in the past, mostly for not being radical enough!   But that doesn’t excuse or explain the crassness of this particular contribution or give anyone confidence that the President is destined to be remembered as the savior of his people.
For now lets bare the truth on this truly execrable piece of writing:  that it is so amatuerly written that it could have been cobbled together by a high school student with only a rudimentary understanding of economics, environmental policy and the social dynamics of a highly complex nation;  that its very self impressed author fails entirely to address foreign relations where Obama’s meandering policies have resulted in disaster upon diplomatic disaster;  that he significantly sidesteps the incessant rise of Islamic terrorism in places where the President only a year before had  declared them snuffed out;  that he refuses to engage in any discussion of  the mounting scandals – the Benghazi sacrifice of an ambassador; the IRS debacle, wherein one of the most important public institutions in the country was revealed to have been thoroughly corrupted by politics; or the Fast and Furious campaign which placed American firearms in the hands of terrorists and gangsters. Also absent from the pen of our Nobel laureate is any commentary on the enormous expansion of executive power which has torn a  deep unconstitutional gash in the fabric of the Presidency;  Nothing on the Administration’s failure  to address our collapsed border and the threat this poses to the lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens in our southern states;  Or on our ballooning national debt – four times the size it stood under George W. Bush; or on immigration, race relations and out-of -control  tortious litigation  – all of which have taken a turn for the worse during the past six years.   And finally no word on Obama’s grandest promise of them all – that he was going to become a consensus president, bridging differences between left and right, black and white, rich and poor  and that he  would exercise his well honed skills in the arts of persuasion. 
These are all missing from the piece because Krugman reveals himself to be quite uninterested in any of them.  For him,  “high office shouldn’t be about putting points on the electoral scoreboard, it should be about changing the country for the better. “
Ah, there it is:   The raw, thumping heart of liberal orthodoxy.   The idea of changing the country, of converting it into something different, something purer and something approximating that great utopian vision of armchair socialists over the centuries, drips through Krugman’s analysis, making it abundantly clear why he avoids uncomfortable topics.  For Krugman  – an economically equitable society, drained of all prejudice and bigotry, where man pays obeisance to Nature and where its abundant resources are distributed equally amongst the world’s citizens – should apparently be the goal of our presidents.  Open borders, multilateralism, military retrenchment, the punishment of successful entrepreneurs, pan-sexuality,  the cosseting of tyrants and campaigns to end the expansion of land use or the excavation of fossil fuels – are all elements that might fit snugly into such a vision. 
One wonders how the three presidents with whom our current  chief executive will one day (in Krugman’s estimation) share the same pantheon might have reacted to the mandate to “change the country.”  Washington, after all, fought to establish it;  Jefferson worked to consolidate it and Lincoln struggled to save it – all worthy enough endeavors for any modern day president.  Changing the country, one would think, requires a level of consensus building coupled with a consistent articulation of a shared vision – skills that even our finest Presidents have experienced some difficulty in mastering.  Abraham Lincoln, after all, did not begin his presidency with the idea of outlawing slavery;  he deflected the issue, fearful of its incendiary potential – and was only led to it by the realization that his nation could not survive without that institution’s eradication.  His genius as a leader was to tap into the vein of righteousness within the citizenry  and to pump that rich resource for all its corpuscular abundance into the heated campaign which produced the Emancipation Proclamation.
Barak Obama, in contrast, has never cast himself as a president who cares all that much about what the citizenry, at its very bedrock, either thinks or feels. He is actually one of the most insular presidents in living memory, whose policies and decisions have been largely driven by superficial poll numbers and a creaking, weathered leftist ideology, rather than an instinctive  grip on the nation’s pulse.  Images of the President’s aloofness are so plentiful as to be embarrassing:  the Presidential motorcade, speeding through the arterial roads of our major cities, delivering the Commander-in-Chief to yet another fundraising event; the photographed fist bump with golfing buddies  just moments after delivering a particularly somber response to the beheading of an American journalist; the constant hobnobbing with the glitterati who gush over his every pronouncement;  and of course the maintenance of a very deliberate distance from  the members of Congress, whom he seems to regard with a singular contempt.  The best that might be said of his feel for the American people is his familiarity with national sports as well as an impressive knowledge of the plot lines of such cable TV series as Homeland and Breaking Bad . The demonstration of that kind of indifference  puts him in league with such 1850s presidents  as Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, both of whom would undoubtedly welcome him to their lonely outposts as the Presidents, who like Sergeant Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes, both knew nothing and saw nothing.
At his two inaugurations, Barak Obama took an oath of office  specified in Article TwoSection OneClause Eight of the United States Constitution:

 “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

How different would  Krugman’s assessment  have been had he used  that oath to measure Barak Obama’s presidential performance?  Maybe the author will soon recognize the empty spaces he left so glaringly open on the pages of his article and submit a more nuanced view of this presidency. Unlikely, perhaps. But if and when this revised version ever sees the light of day, the last place you can ever expect to find it is in the glossy, celebrity filled pages of Rolling Stone Magazine.   

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles and blogs at The Intermediate Zone

This article first appeared, in an edited version, in the American Thinker

This article  first appeared, in an edited version in the American Thinker

Jenny McCarthy Gets Her Comeuppance

January 10, 2011

For nearly 14 years, many parents in the Western world have been wringing their hands about what to do about vaccinations – a formality taken for granted over the past half century.   Measles, mumps, chicken pox and small pox- killers of children in past centuries, were nearly wiped out in the latter half of the 20th Century by the advent of preventative vaccinations which injected antibodies  that impeded the spread of the diseases.

That was until an unfortunate article appeared in the U.K’s premiere medical journal The Lancet in July 1998.  A study then published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—a mainstay of public-health disease prevention efforts around the world—was linked to autism and gastrointestinal disorders in young children.

The study led to a highly charged campaign, led by such celebrities as former Playboy centerfold and television personality Jenny McCarthy, that called for the end of vaccinations.   At the same time, a parallel campaign was led by medical researchers who claimed that the original study had been based on a fraudulent and inaccurate data.

The Lancet finally withdrew the article in January of last year after concluding that “several elements” of the paper were incorrect. But the journal didn’t describe any of the discrepancies as fraud. A British regulator stripped Dr. Wakefield of his medical license last May, citing “serious professional misconduct” in the way he handled the research.

An article, published  a few days ago by journalist Brian Deer, found that important details of the cases of each of 12 children reported in the original study either misrepresented or altered the actual experiences of the children, the journal said. “In no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal,” the editorial said. It called the study “an elaborate fraud.”

The damage done by the original article and the irresponsible advocacy of people like Jenny McCarthy and the organization Talk About Curing Autism is incalculable.   Hundreds of thousands of children in the West are now exposed to diseases that were already but wiped out by the mid 1960s. Much like the scare over DDT, fraudulently declared toxic to human beings by Rachel Carson in the mid- 1960s ( despite practically having wiped out malaria), the scare over vaccinations has proved again how politics has crept into science and how political correctness  has been used to assault the truth.

Jenny McCarthy and her supporters steadfastly cling to their version of the truth.   But her pseudo-science now deserves out right condemnation and a public backlash against her irresponsible advocacy and that of her claque  should be exposed as the posturing of a know nothing celebrity completely out of her depth.

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Daily Blurb #1

January 3, 2011

The Battle Over Health Care Will Continue

The Obama Administration’s narrow victory over health care in March 2010 may now be in danger.   See today’s article in the New York Times.  It is has always been my position that the passage of this legislation, forced through against such popular resistance was a monumental mistake for the Administration, a pyrrhic victory that cast the President as both blind and unfeeling about public opinion.  With the Republican dominated House now vowing to take on the Administration on the issue of repeal, the stage is set for a titanic and historic struggle in Congress in 2011.  While many Democrats, charged by their apparent victories on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the START Treaty, are preparing for a fight in the hopes of carrying it as a trophy into the 2012 election season, I firmly believe it will backfire and that Obamacare will in fact hang as an albatross around the party’s neck for years to come.

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talk Pantomime Opens its 2011 Season

If 2010 was a frustrating year for Middle East peace activists, wait until you experience 2011.  It will continue to be the Netanyahu Government’s strategy to push the Palestinians for unconditional negotiations while the Palestinian leadership will continue to demand a settlement freeze as a pre-condition for any future negotiations.  But the Palestinians clearly don’t want a simple settlement freeze; they had one from December 2009 through September 2010 and failed to come to the table.  They want Israel to agree to remove all settlements before negotiations even begin. The Palestinian leadership has clearly decided that it has enough international clout to apply pressure to the Israelis by doing nothing and letting other governments to do the talking – and perhaps even negotiating, for them.   The Obama Administration has looked helpless  in the face of such intransigence, choosing to apply pressure to Netanyahu rather than Abbas.  It has been a disastrous policy leading to deepening distrust between the U.S. and Israel and the  ever widening possibilities for the outbreak of violence.  Netanyahu’s statement today is only further evidence of this continuing pantomime.  I will have more to say on this in the coming weeks.

Muslim Abuse of Christians in Egypt

It is extraordinary how little is known about the persecution of the Christian Copts in Egypt.  Over the weekend, following the bombing of a church on New Year’s Eve in Alexandria in which 25 church goers were killed, our attention should be riveted on this issue.  It is representative of a wide scale assault on Christian communities throughout the Muslim world and while the Egyptian government might be wringing its hands over the death of the Copts, how many know that it is the secular Egyptian government itself which maintains an anti-Christian policy, with widespread discrimination legislated against the sect in many areas of daily life.  Even more appalling than this though, is the abject failure of Christian leaders  – most particularly the leaders of major Protestant denominations, to express their outrage and contempt for  the continued harassment of Christian minorities in both Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

My Letter in the Los Angeles Times

Please see my letter, published in the Los Angeles Times on January 1.   It was written in response to an  oped by Neal Gabler on December 26 which claimed that the Democratic party was not quite progressive or bold enough for his tastes and that the current President is just another Democratic cop out.  Naturally, the letter was edited.  Here is the full text:

Worry no more about the fate of poor Planet Pluto.  It is the terrestrial sphere where Democratic pundits such as Neal Gablereath ( Compromised to Death 12/26 ) have taken up residence. Gabler’s understanding of American politics and the American electorate are so bizarrely out of focus that it is natural to believe he is indeed living on another planet. It is plainly absurd to suggest that Barack Obama has changed course simply because that is the nature of modern Democrats in power.  That is the nature of American politics, period. All of the Democratic presidents he mentions, FDR, Truman and LBJ, moved to compromise when their agendas ran into resistance. The presidential ship regularly founders on the shoals of such political realities and it matters little whether it is helmed by a Democrat or a Republican.

Gabler also seems not to have heard of the Tea Party movement, (not mentioned once in his piece), a grass roots resistance to the ideological purity exemplified by Obama in his first first two years in power and which led the charge in ruthlessly repudiating his agenda in November.  Obama has demonstrated that he is enough of a pragmatist to gauge the direction of the political winds.   It is a skill, sadly, which completely evades pundits such as Gabler.

Avi Davis

A Pyrrhic Victory

March 22, 2010

Bells rang out across the land.   The people, freed from centuries of oppression by a feudal system of health care, rushed into village streets, banging drums and shaking timbrels.  Thirty- two million people, in one voice, wept with gratitude as their redemptive leader read them the new order.  No longer would they be at the mercy of avaricious insurance companies.  No longer would anyone reject them for a prior medical condition or their age;  no longer would a citizen’s income dictate whether or not he or she could see a doctor.

That certainly is the reaction for which Barack Obama is longing as he sets his pen to the most important change to national health care since Lyndon Johnson’s landmark Medicare legislation 45 years ago.

There are plenty of people around the world who are declaring that its about time.  After all, Germany had introduced government sanctioned  sickness and accident insurance  as long ago as 1883 when Otto von Bismarck was Chancellor and most European countries have enjoyed some variety of nationalized health for at least 60 years.

Yet, there were always good reasons the United States did not have a universal health care system.  For all their claims of success, the Europeans, Canadians and other Western nations’ systems have operated as notorious drains on their treasuries, reducing the overall quality of care and consigning many aged, terminally ill individuals to wait lists that sometimes extend years.

But more important than this is the notion that a Government managed health care system vitiated against the country’s bedrock belief in free enterprise and the efficacy of market mechanisms in regulating the application of a service vital service to the public.  Health care, for generations of Americans, was never regarded so much as a  right, as much as it was a privilege to which one worked hard to obtain – and then maintain.

Yesterday, that changed.  Health care has now become an entitlement in the United States of America which will almost certainly bring with it most of the other ills that have attached to similar systems. Who will pay for it in an era when government is already heaving under a merciless burden of debt, is still anyone’s guess.

For all the euphoria, it is not certain that anyone has a comprehensive understanding  of what is in this health bill.  From its earlier incarnations, pages  been ripped out, amendments slapped on to politically sensitive sections, whole chapters eviscerated – it has begun to resemble one of those study guides high school students carry into their open book exams with sections pasted in from assigned texts, yellow post-its dangling from its edges and hundreds of dog-eared pages marking important areas of concentration.     It may take many months for the final version to be published and even then there is no certainty that anyone willl be able to get a handle on its Byzantine complexity. Obamacare enters history as a modern day version of the Rosetta Stone, to be interpreted and reinterpreted by our judges and legislators for many generations into the future.

What then of the political maneuvering to took to get this bird in the air?   The Obama flight plan, which only two months ago, damaged by incessant flak with its engines on fire and billowing smoke, was in a tailspin, its future grim.  It now appears now to have pulled out of it of its death dive, albeit with its  fuselage singed and rattling away at low altitude.

But that might not be for long.  The extra cargo this administration has taken on in passing the legislation, with pet projects of representatives now demanding be fed, will be a heavy burden that it will only unload at great expense to its future.

And at least one thing is for certain.  Gone is any pretense of Barack Obama as this century’s first post-partisan president, having repudiated his election night promise that he would be the president of   “all Americans”.   We should not forget the other historical first achieved last night – the health care bill  legislation passed the House with not even one Republican vote.   Never in this country’s history has so important a piece of legislation failed to win any bi-partisan support.

The effect of this reality may be seismic.  Popular opinion in the country may be stirred in outrage, leading to a devastating rout for Democrats at the polls in only eight months time.  In that event, Obama’s great victory will have wilted into a tragic mistake that might have been avoided with the application of restraint and moderation.

The Obama  administration should therefore not forget  Plutarch’s retelling to Dionysis of the Pyrrhic Wars:

“The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders and there were no others there to make recruits.  On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.“.

The Obamaites would do well to heed Pyrrhus’ historical lesson.

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