Friday, March 10, 2006

A direct hit

Princeton Professor of Economics and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman allowed himself a much-deserved "I told you so" column today, since he has made the endless lying of George W. Bush a theme since the 2000 campaign trail. Krugman lobbed intellectual mortars specifically at Bruce Bartlett and Andrew Sullivan, who exhibit the zeal of the converted:

Mr. Sullivan used to specialize in denouncing the patriotism and character of anyone who dared to criticize President Bush, whom he lionized. Now he himself has become a critic, not just of Mr. Bush's policies, but of his personal qualities, too.

Sullivan, a pioneer in the labelling of Krugman as "shrill" for his dissent delivers a long and clearly stung response that will doubtless draw much analysis of its own, but one specific thing should be noted right away:

Five days after 9/11, in an aside in a long essay, I predicted that a small cadre of decadent leftists in enclaves in coastal universities would instinctively side with America's enemies. They did. Some still do.

Note, via Sullywatch for the previous instance, that this makes it two times that has he now altered that infamous quote, once to lessen its central accusation and now to claim it only applied to universities and not everyone on the coasts:

The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.

We hope to return to other elements of his response later. But one quick thing. He also says:

Since he's [Krugman] too important to have his columns available to non-subscribers, I can't link.

Krugman works for a newspaper that has subscriptions, not unknown in the web world these days. Here's the link-- it just requires some money.

UPDATE: In addition to a nod to Atrios for the link, who specifically notes Sully's disengenuousness about linking to Krugman -- Sully has himself linked to subscription sites, when it's a point he agrees with:

Quote for the Day II
... - Yossi Klein Halevi, in the New Republic (behind the subscriber firewall, alas).

And it was only on Wednesday that Sullivan was being needled about the "decadent left" quote by the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto (where there's a history), to whom it would clearly be news that the quote only applied to universities. Taranto links to a New York Times story about heterosexual marriages with an understanding that there would be gay relationships on the side, and wonders:

Wasn't it George Orwell who observed that the decadent left in its enclaves on the coast is not dead?

Sully, with an Orwell quote in his banner, has not responded.

More on Sully's embrace of Bush's fiscal dishonesty from Angry Bear, and Brad DeLong. And Digby notes how Sullivan and Tom Friedman have gotten to the same place and seem to be looking for absolution.

SATURDAY: Sullivan has now excerpted a segment from his response to Slate's Tim Noah, who was among many critics of the "decadent left" quote when it first appeared. This was his second attempt at a response to Noah, the first having included:

These people have already openly said they do not support such a war [in Afghanistan], and will oppose it. Read Sontag and Chomsky and Moore and Alterman and on and on, and you'll see that I'm not exaggerating. Go to any campus and you'll find many, many academics saying the same thing. If anything, I'm minimizing their open hatred of the United States. So why should I retract?

In fact, the column remains the archetypal example of what became a standard tactic of the jingoistic right -- the elevation of unrepresentative dissenters on "the left" into plenipotentiaries for any opposition to George W. Bush. By the way, we don't mean to imply that his named (after-the-fact) list of America-haters are unrepresentative, and of course with the exception of Susan Sontag, RIP, they can still speak for themselves.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from the aforementioned Eric Alterman. We strongly recommend you visit Sullywatch next. And for more background on Sully's current behaviour, we note some past commentary of ours on him; his tendency to ratchet up his English Toryness when he's under attack from former allies, coupled with an ability to mangle very basic conservative philosophy (Oakeshott and Hobbes).

FINAL UPDATE: Sullivan has a letter to the NYT editor for 24 March. He does not discuss the representativeness of his apparent dissent within his overall output.

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