Paul Krugman zapped a fellow New York Times columnist this morning with a sharp rebuke, basically calling him a Bush patsy and accusing him of being an enabler if not a believer:
In a coordinated public relations offensive, the White House is using reliably friendly pundits — amazingly, they still exist — to put out the word that President Bush is as upbeat and confident as ever.
Perhaps out of politeness, although more likely out of Times protocol, Krugman doesn’t name him. But in case you missed who he means — since he does name Republican Sen. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, as key Bush enablers — the patsy pundit Krugman means is David Brooks.
On Tuesday, in his column, Mr. Patsy Pundit described a meeting he attended at the White House to hear Bush talk about the war in Iraq:
I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency. [Emphasis added.]
Though Krugman is willing to concede that Mr. Patsy Pundit’s description of an upbeat, confident Bush “might even be true,” he points to an obvious problem. “What I don’t understand,” he writes, “is why we’re supposed to consider Mr. Bush’s continuing confidence a good thing.”
This doesn’t occur to Mr. Patsy Pundit, who goes on to describe Bush in typically grandiose language. Besides gushing about a president with “a capacious view of the job and its possibilities,” he elevates Bush to the rarified intellectual realm, believe it or not, of an anti-Tolstoy.
He refers to Bush’s “theory of history” as if he actually has one, and “only the whispering voice of Leo Tolstoy holds one back” from believing how “smart” and “compelling” Bush is “in person.”
There are always patsies and enablers who surround the worst leaders, who flatter them with euphemisms and heroize them with outright lies. But as Krugman says, “we need to stop blaming” Bush for our mess. “He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.”
Even if Mr. Patsy Pundit is not a hardcore loyalist — and he’s not — he is delusional for writing about Bush the way he does. And that’s the trouble. “Many people” who realize what’s wrong — the pols, mainly Republicans, and the U.S. generals at the top — “still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it,” Krugman writes. But it’s the patsy pundits like Brooks who enable them.
(Crossposted at HuffPo)
(FYI: Krugman’s column is free to read here.)