Paul Krugman embarrassed himself on several fronts in his Tuesday New York Times column, jumping on the latest liberal outrage bandwagon over the awarding of a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson (a doctor and philanthropist, and the wife of casino owner and Trump donor Sheldon Adelson).
In “Truth and Virtue in the Age of Trump,” Krugman pretends he’s letting the world in on a big scoop, but not before a really lame opening line.
Remember when freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose? These days it’s just another word for giving lots of money to Donald Trump.
What with the midterm elections -- and the baseless Republican cries of voting fraud -- I don’t know how many people heard about Trump’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, wife of casino owner and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The medal is normally an acknowledgment of extraordinary achievement or public service; on rare occasions this includes philanthropy. But does anyone think the Adelsons’ charitable activities were responsible for this honor?
For context, some of President Obama’s choices to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (he gave out more than any other president) included Oprah Winfrey, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, Ellen DeGeneres, Lorne Michaels, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen. But Adelson is somehow uniquely unqualified.
But Krugman truly stepped in his own hypocrisy when he shamelessly reversed himself, using late Republican Sen. John McCain as a convenient tool solely to bash Trump.
And the same goes for heroism and cowardice. A genuine hero like John McCain, who was critical of Trump, gets dismissed as a failure: “He’s not a war hero. … I like people who weren’t captured.” Meanwhile, Miriam Adelson, whose service to the nation basically consists of giving Trump campaign contributions, gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Krugman’s thinking on McCain has evolved with astonishing speed, because that’s certainly not what he called McCain in July 2017. Just 17 months ago, the Republican senator was “awful” and “a world-class hypocrite to boot....” For context, this column was penned during the heated run-up to the attempted repeal of Obamacare. Notice how, after calling McCain awful, Krugman had to embarrassingly squeeze in his admission that McCain actually (now famously) voted thumbs-down on the repeal:
Everyone in the world of opinion spends a lot of time talking about the awfulness of Donald Trump -- and with plenty of reason. But can we take a moment to consider the awfulness of Senator John McCain? Awfulness somewhat, but only somewhat, redeemed by his last-minute vote.....We don’t know yet how all this will turn out, but one thing is clear: McCain has been a crucial enabler of the Senate’s shame -- and a world-class hypocrite to boot....
Krugman’s Tuesday rant continued with an extreme accusation that’s become sadly typical of his columns, where he pretends that Republicans complaining about vote shenanigans in Florida means fascism is dawning.
Democrats, being human, sometimes have biased views and engage in motivated reasoning. But they haven’t abandoned the whole notion of objective facts and nonpolitical goodness; Republicans have.
What all of this means is that what’s going on in America right now isn’t politics as usual. It’s much more existential than that. You have to be truly delusional to see the Republicans’ response to their party’s midterm setback as anything but an attempted power grab by a would-be authoritarian movement, which rejects any opposition or even criticism as illegitimate. Our democracy is still very much in danger.