Youve got to be kidding: Good grief! We scanned his words a second time, to see if wed read them correctly. Were fairly sure you know our view: Paul Krugman has been the very best, at the top of the pile, for a very long time now. But golly Ned! Heres how he started this mornings column. We had to read it twice:
KRUGMAN (11/7/08): Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, is a date that will live in fame (the opposite of infamy) forever. If the election of our first African-American president didnt stir you, if it didnt leave you teary-eyed and proud of your country, theres something wrong with you.
If those are the rules of the current game, sign us up for something wrong with you.
Were we stirred Tuesday night? Were not quite sure. Teary-eyed? No, although moist at times. And we very much admired Obama when he took the hand of Bidens mother and led her to the front of the stage. It made us think of Bill Clinton, on Inaugural Day, when he stopped to talk to a man who may have been homelessand addressed him as sir. In each case, we were pleased to have a president who had such excellent judgment.
But proud of our country? No, not at all; well stand with the early Michelle Obama when it comes to such gauzy constructions. Although we see and hear people, every day, engaging in splendid behavior. Wednesday afternoon, we happened to be driving home from the dentist. For that reason, we heard this woman, on the phone from Kansas City, speaking to Talk of the Nation. To hear her phone call, just click here, then scroll to 35:40:
CALLER (11/5/08): Hi. I am calling on the Republican line because I did end up voting for Barack ObamaI mean, for John McCain! But I am one of those people who waited until I had to put my ballot in the mailwere a military family, so I voted absenteeto decide. Two things that I wanted to say: As a Christian, we try to live, my familywe try to teach our kids thisto let no word come out of your mouth but whats going to be profitable for building up one [unintelligible]. And thats been something thats been sorely lacking in this campaign. And just talking to other friendsit breaks my heart when I hear the negativity that weve heard surrounding this campaign. Even down in my home state with the Senate campaign that Elizabeth Dole just lost down there.
And then, as a military family member, what we try to tell our childrenand Im a spouse, and now I have a twenty-year-old son who is in the militaryno matter who wins, this person is going to be Dads, and now Brothers, commander-in-chief. And things that you say, strongly negative things beforehand, make it really hard to do that. So you know, our children dont even knowI mean, if they asked us directly, I guess we would tell themI mean, weve talked to them about the issues, but our children dont even know who we voted for.
We didnt vote the way this woman did. Eventually, she said she ended up casting her vote for McCain because for me, it came down to national security and who I trusted more as commander-in-chief But then, she told Neal Conan this. We thought this was splendid behavior:
CALLER: But that being saidnow, our new commander-in chief is Barack Obama. And you know, Ive been praying for him all along. And he will be the one that we pray for now, and will honor.
And you know, Im very excited andyou know, as a Caucasian-American, I dont think I can ever get the intensity of what African-Americans feel right now. But I felt a bit of that this morning. It is historic, and Im excited that weve come to a place in our nation where every child can picture himself as president of the United States.
We had a reaction to that call; we thought this womans children were lucky in who they got for their mother. But this womans splendid behavior didnt make us proud of our country. Nor were we ashamed of our country when we watched Rachel Maddow that night, churning a string of unfortunate jokes about McCain being too old to drive a car any more, and laughably short besides that. We just shook our heads again at the state of progressive wisdom.
Should we have been proud of our country because of the election of our first African-American president? Many African-American citizens have reacted to this weeks events with deep emotion; for just one (second-hand) example, read the letter from Donald Graul in this mornings Post. This week, weve often recalled the professor who wrote, earlier this year, about her elderly parents in Mississippi; the professor said she was thrilled that her parents had lived long enough to see Obamas campaign. For ourselves, if that professor pays travel and lodging, well go down to Mississippi ourselves and carry her parents around on a chair. But when it comes to this part of the question, our own thumb largely comes down on a different part of the scale.
First, were not surprised that the country elected Obama, who was in most ways (not necessarily all) the clearly superior candidate. And we dont plan to pretend were surprised, as many big pundits have done (not Krugman). Duh. We recall the way pundits stood in line in 1995, urging Colin Powell to run. And we recall the November 1996 exit polls: Had Powell been the GOP candidate, voters said they would have elected himsaid so by a wide margin. (Powell 48, Clinton 36, Perot 8. Just click here.) To heighten the drama, pundits pretend that Tuesdays election was something no one ever imagined. When they do so, some are lying again, as they do with such endless aplomb.
So no, we actually werent surprised to see Obama elected. Nor are we proud when voters do sensible things; as in the days when we taught fifth-graders, we expect sensible conduct. Beyond that, our thumb comes down on the part of the scale which says that Barack Obama should get to be Barack Obama, without having the mountain of race hoisted up on his back. It has been a very long time since any white person had to bear the burden of his ethnicity, which was never as big a mountain as race; were tired of seeing white folk insist on making Obama be the black guy. Rather than get all excited and proud about our first African-American president, wed like to see people put their focus on having our first recent successful president.
By the way: Many children will not be able picture themselves as president of the United States, though thats a separate question.
Should we be proud of our country for electing Obama? In most ways, he was the clearly superior candidate; why exactly should we be proud when voters make such a choice? Frankly, we think our standards have been dumbed way down when we clap ourselves on the back for such conduct.
Beyond that, we think we might to revisit the context in which this decision occurred.
Should we be proud of Tuesdays outcome? In many ways, McCain was an utterly gruesome candidate. Are we supposed to be proud of the country whose groaning, store-bought, brain-dead elites worked so long, so hard, so dumbly to hide that matter from you? The same pundits who tell you about their surprise told you, for many years, that McCain was the worlds greatest known living human, although he plainly was not. How could anyone be proud of a country whose structures have conspired, for such a long time, to support these grisly elites in such gruesome, gong-show behavior? Guess what? Your political culture is a screaming disgrace. But so what? Even your smartest, most superlative columnist is saying that you should be proud of the country whose elites refuse to stop behaving that way. Whose elites agree not to tattle.
Guess what, kids? McCain was a horrible candidate nine years agobut your elites (pause for laugh) told you different. Sometimes they did so because of their dumbness; sometimes they did so through bleating obedience to their groups pre-approved standard scripts. But sensible people should be ashamed that this charade got anywhere near this place. McCain was ahead in many polls in mid-September, when the financial world collapsed.
Should you be proud of your country? Just consider what happened in early 2000 when Candidate McCainthen widely pimped as a moral sun godspoke with Jonathan Chait. As Chait explained in his lengthy New Republic piece (no link available), McCain had been traipsing all about, boasting about the way his tax cuts were aimed at helping the have-nots. But as with so many other topics, McCain seemed to have no f*cking idea how his plan actually worked:
CHAIT (1/31/00): McCain says his economic plan is meant to help "the have- nots." As evidence, he points to his proposal to lift the amount of income subject to the 15 percent tax bracket. "If you put more and more people into the fifteen percent tax bracket, you would have a significant beneficial effect," he says. "The have-nots are not the poorest necessarily; the have- nots are lower- and middle-income Americans, who are not rising as fast as the wealthiest Americans, as well." But expanding the 15 percent tax bracket only helps those who are paying above 15 percent right now, which is only the wealthiest one-fourth of all taxpayers. When told this, McCain is at first undaunted. They "are in that bracket, but their boat is not rising," he insists. "They're a group of have-nots. They're in the have-not group." Later in the interview, though, McCain betrays second thoughts. "Maybe I'm not paying enough attention to the poorest of America," he says. "Maybe my priorities are not correct. I selected this course not thinking that it's perfect but thinking that it's the best that I could come up with."
They are in the have-not group! Go aheadlaugh out loud! In a rational world, a candidate like that would be laughed off the stagebut you live in a world thats full of Chait, and all the Chaits were very proud of how magnificent this great man was. In a sadly comical effort, Chait found ways to see the best in McCains endless flips and confusions. This man is not a Republican, his headline announcedand he went on, in his lengthy piece, to explain away McCains flips and confusions. The great man was on an intellectual odyssey, he wroteon a journey away from the right.
In fact, McCain bungled almost every topic during Campaign 2000, but the star-struck boys and girls on his bus found ways to ignore these bungles. With minor exceptions, they even managed to look away from the race man McCain had picked to run his South Carolina campaign. In The New Republic, Benjamin Soskis offered a short, biting profile. His headline said this: Race Man:
SOSKIS (1/31/00): McCain's top strategist in South Carolina is Richard M. Quinn, a savvy political consultant and the father of the state's House majority leader. Quinn has advised some of South Carolina's most prominent politicians; he has also ushered several previous presidential candidateslike Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Pat Robertson in 1988through the prickly briars of South Carolina politics. But Quinn's real claim to fame in the Palmetto State stems from his post as editor of Southern Partisan, a 20-year-old quarterly that serves as the leading journal of the neo-Confederacy movement.
Like the movement itselfwhich combines a nostalgic yearning for an agrarian past with a virulent antipathy for the liberals and blacks who want to remain in the presentSouthern Partisan's place on the ideological spectrum is a bit ill-defined. According to one reviewer, the journal is "to the right of National Review but to the left of the Klan." But, if the nostalgia has prompted the grand old men of Southern thought and culturemen like Russell Kirk and Andrew Lytleto contribute to Southern Partisan, the antipathy has attracted a very different breed of writer.
Indeed, scan the last 20 years of Southern Partisan, and, right alongside a recipe for "Nutty Sweet Potato Casserole" and genteel reflections on Hank Williams, you'll find a gumbo of racist apologias. From a 1996 article comes the claim that "slave owners...did not have a practice of breaking up slave families. If anything, they encouraged strong slave families to further the slaves' peace and happiness." In 1987 the magazine offered a vision of South African history straight from the apartheid-era textbooks: "God led Afrikaners into the Transvaal, it was with God that they made their prayerful covenant when they were besieged by bloodthirsty savages on all sides." And in 1990 the journal celebrated David Duke as "a candidate concerned about 'affirmative' discrimination, welfare prolifigacy [sic] , the taxation holocaust ... a Populist spokesperson for a recapturing of the American ideal."
The mainstream press had met the most wonderful guy, so McCain was allowed to talk his way out of even this odd situation. (Bush was trashed for visiting Bob Jones University, a standard stop for Republican candidatesuntil the press corps fell in love with McCain and began pimping his narratives.) Ditto with his anonymous, inaccurate robocallsthe ones his campaign lied about, right in the press corps faces. Ditto with his bogus claims about the Bush budget plan; his nasty, bogus jokes about Gore; his serial lying about the negative fliers his campaign kept handing out. In the end, the great man was widely praised for his lyingfor lying about that confederate flag. When he told the truth about his lyingafter it no longer mattered, of courseit just showed us how honest he was!
In a rational worldin a country which might make a sane person prouda candidate who did these things would have hooted from the stage. Instead, McCain was pimped ahead into the future. This year, having decided Obama was better, pundits had to fake it again. They had to pretend they were shocked, just shocked, by the strange way McCain had changed. But then, your journalistic elites will lie in your faces in much the way normal folk breathe.
Tell us again why were suppose to feel proud of the country whose elites create such endless deceptions. And yesfor all his superlative service, Krugman belongs to the elite which has handed you this decade of blather. Has he ever stated his full understanding of this system? Wed have to guess that he has not.
Lets be clear: Our lack of pride had nothing to do with the conduct of American voters. To our ear, that callers decency spoke for itselfand she didnt even vote the way we did! But why on earth would any sane person be proud of a country of Riches and Dowdsof Milbanks, Joe Kleins, Beinarts and Chaits? People like Talk of the Nations caller live inside a culture of clownsand very few career players are willing to tell them. Well praise her decency to the skies. But proud of our country? Please.
What kind of country do you live in? Last night, Chris Matthews clowned for the full hour about Sarah Palin, pretending that anonymous claims about her dumbness are somehow plainly accurate. He has no idea if these claims are truebut hes pimping the world your way now. You see, he wants to run for the Senateas a Dem. So last night, he kept pimping your novels.
Your country? A hall of mirrors, staffed by clowns. Proud of it? Sorrywere not. Well proudly sign our name on this list: Something wrong with us.