Respected liberal economist turned partisan Democratic columnist Paul Krugman is at his absolute worst during times of national tragedy, from 9-11 to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, events he invariably, clumsily tries to exploit for partisan gain.The pattern held after the anti-Semitic massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
One of Krugman’s many bad habits is his pushy, domineering tone, and he was in fine form in that respect in Tuesday’s New York Times, “Hate Is on the Ballot Next Week. Don’t Pretend Otherwise.” The text box had a dire warning against daring to suggest that Democrats have contributed to the aura of political violence: “Whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels. For cowards, it’s bothsidesism.”
So don’t dare mention the near-fatal shooting of Republican congressmen on a softball field by a Bernie Sanders supporter, or the hassling of Republican politicians and Trump staffers for daring to eat in public, or Antifa thugs beating up random people and destroying property.
In America 2018, whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and bothsidesism is the last refuge of cowards.
In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church -- if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder.
But Krugman has negative moral authority here, having falsely blamed Sarah Palin for the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords a few hours after it happened, before anyone knew anything (the shooter turned out to be a paranoid schizophrenic with no politics to speak of).
All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media.
Killing black people is an old American tradition, but it is experiencing a revival in the Trump era.
When the bombs were discovered, many on the right immediately claimed that they were fake news or a false flag operation by liberals. But the F.B.I. quickly tracked down the apparent source of the explosive devices: A fanatical Trump supporter, whom many are already calling the MAGABomber. His targets were people and a news organization Trump has attacked in many speeches. (Since the bombings, Trump has continued to attack the news media as the “enemy of the people.”)
Krugman confessed that the Pittsburgh synagogue killer was critical of Trump, but gave the president the blame anyway. He didn’t even try to make an argument before linking the killing to the left’s #1 enemy, Fox News.
It’s also the barely veiled subtext of the manufactured hysteria over the caravan of would-be migrants from Central America. The fearmongers aren’t just portraying a small group of frightened, hungry people still far from the United States border as a looming invasion. They have also been systematically implying that Jews are somehow behind the whole thing. There’s a straight line from Fox News coverage of the caravan to the Tree of Life massacre.
So how are Trump apologists dealing with this ugly picture? Partly through denial, pretending not to see any link between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes. But also through attempts to spread the blame by claiming that Democrats are just as bad if not worse. Trump supporters try to kill his critics? Well, some Trump opponents have yelled at politicians in restaurants!
Notice Krugman totally skips the worst examples of evidence that contradicts his thesis that the GOP under Trump is the root of all evil. Such as: The attempted murder of Republican congressmen, including House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, on a baseball field. The mauling of Sen. Rand Paul by a liberal neighbor. The sending of ricin to the offices of Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Susan Collins. The stabbing of a Republican congressional candidate in California. The recent shooting into a local Republican headquarters in Florida.
Other than that, Krugman has a point.
False equivalence, portraying the parties as symmetric even when they clearly aren’t, has long been the norm among self-proclaimed centrists and some influential media figures. It’s a stance that has hugely benefited the GOP, as it has increasingly become the party of right-wing extremists.
The fact is that one side of the political spectrum is peddling hatred, while the other isn’t. And refusing to point that out for fear of sounding partisan is, in effect, lending aid and comfort to the people poisoning our politics. Yes, hate is on the ballot next week.