THE DECLINE OF THE REST: Paul Krugman has long been our favorite top-level columnistthe one who almost always says something accurate and/or relevant. And of course, Krugman is the only high-end columnist who would have typed what follows. As we noted yesterday, this material appeared last Friday, on his New York Times blog:
KRUGMAN (10/10/08): One thing that has been sort of written out of the mainstream history of politics is the sheer insanity of the attacks on the Clintonsthey were drug smugglers, they murdered Vince Foster (and lots of other people), they were in league with foreign powers. And this stuff didnt just show up in fringe publicationsit was discussed in Congress, given props by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and so on.
There are shortcomings to that paragraphwhich appeared as part of a short post on a larger subject. In our view, its always a mistake when liberals fail to mention an obvious factthe fact that the insanity of the attacks on the Clintons was quickly transformed, in March 1999, into the insanity of the attacks on Candidate Gore. And that twenty-month Group Insanity didnt just show up in conservative editorial pages, like that of the Wall Street Journal; it was heavily driven by famous liberals on the op-ed page Krugman shares. We especially think of Frank Rich and Bob Herbert, who were still driving the most inane critiques of Gore even after his first debate with Bush. But the sheer insanity of the 1990s was widely purchased, all around. Even liberals signed up for the Clinton-hatred, then agreed to extend it to Gore.
None of these giants has ever explained why this insanity happened.
As Krugman put it, this history-changing episode has been written out of the mainstream history of politics. Most career liberals still wont discuss it. For that reason, most voters have never heard that it even occurred.
Among top-end pundits, only Krugman will ever discuss this insanity.
But thats Paul Krugman as a columnist. Yesterday, he was honored for his work as an economistand we learned, long ago, to look askance at these professor fellers. That said, nothing is funnier than what occurs when our journalists try to explain our professors. Thus, the odd moment in todays New York Times, when Catherine Rampell summarized the scholarly work for which Krugman has been honored. No. We did not make this up:
RAMPELL (10/14/08): He set out to explain why worldwide trade was dominated by a few countries that were similar to one another, and why a country might import the same kinds of goods it exported.
In his model, many companies sell similar goods with slight variations. These companies become more efficient at producing their goods as they sell more, and so they grow. Consumers like variety, and pick and choose goods from among these producers in different countries, enabling countries to continue exchanging similar products. So some Americans buy Volkswagens and some Germans buy Fords.
We have no idea what Krugman explained. But were fairly sure that cant be it.
Dig it! Long before the financial system broke down, your public discourse had cracked apart all around you. You were living in an age of insanity by the time the crackpot loathing of Clinton made way for the crackpot loathing of Gore. But so what? Your highly-paid Potemkin liberals all agreed not to tattle. Dionne ran off and hid in the weeds, ignoring what Rich and Alter (and Ceci and Kit) were doing at high-end Village addresses. (Al Gore said he invented the Internet!) At the highest end of American commentary, only Paul Krugman did not.
To our ear, a new generation seems willing to keep variants of the insanity going. Or, as Rampell might have put it: Many companies sell similar goods with slight variations.
They discussed it: Gene Lyons discussed the insanity in Fools for Scandal (1996). Then, Gene and Joe Conason wrote The Hunting of the President (2000).
TOMORROW: Frankly bogus, completed.
Also tomorrow: You may see things quite differently than I, our e-mail friend tristero said. In fact, we did see that episode somewhat differently. Click here to watch the full exchange. Well offer reactions tomorrow.