Krugman: “In Defense Of Obama”

Paul Krugman, of all people on the left, has done what should be done. He has actually come out with an in-your-face defense of President Obama.

The subhead for the excellent Rolling Stone piece is,

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

If you are a regular reader of Krugman you know very well that he has, at times, been fairly critical of the Obama administration. And I actually mean “fairly” critical. He hasn’t just taken cheap shots, as so many on both the right and left have done.

Now, after first admitting that he has “always been out of sync” with the President, Krugman says,

Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.

Yes. And here is why in a quick summary:

His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

It’s too bad that other Democrats, including Allison Lundergan Grimes, who wants to unseat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, don’t feel free to embrace Obama’s achievements, if not Obama himself. Grimes, famously now, couldn’t even bring herself to admit to the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board that sgrimes obama vote answerhe actually voted for the President, even though she was born and raised a Democrat, and even though some 500,000 Kentuckians are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, the same law that has driven Republicans nuts and the same law that McConnell wants to kill.

Yes, I understand she is running in Kentucky. I understand that Obama is very unpopular in that state. But Grimes didn’t help herself by being so obviously frightened to admit she voted for The Scary Negro. She even went so far as to say that she was a “Clinton” Democrat. We all know what that means, of course. There’s no mistaking either Bill or Hillary for an African-American.

But abandoning President Obama has become quite fashionable among Democrats and liberals these days, even if you don’t live in the Deep South and even if you’re not paper-white. Krugman mentions Cornel West, a black professor at Union Theological Seminary, who this summer was the subject of a Salon interview by lefty Thomas Frank. Frank, who wrote the influential book, What’s The Matter With Kansas, introduces West as,

one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

That being said, let’s look at what this public intellectual offered as penetrating analysis of President Obama:

Dr. Cornel West…the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. 

The black public intellectual actually called Obama “a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist.” And Thomas Frank baited him with elitist nonsense:

FRANK: There’s a lot of disillusionment now. My liberal friends included. The phrase that I have heard from more than one person in the last year is they feel like they got played.

WEST: That’s true. That’s exactly right. What I hear is that, “He pimped us.” I heard that a zillion times. “He pimped us, brother West.” That’s another way of saying “we got played.”

That’s just a sample of criticism coming from Obama’s left. Krugman answers it:

They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have constrained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.

No, it’s not hard to take such claims seriously. It is impossible.



  1. Bbob

     /  October 13, 2014

    Guess I need to start wearing my Obama tee shirt again.


    • It’s amazing to me how strong is the urge to abandon a perfectly seaworthy ship. Some folks think just because Republicans, aided by cover-the-controversies media, say the ship has holes in it and is going to sink, that is enough to jump overboard.


  2. ansonburlingame

     /  October 13, 2014


    Right out of the gate, so to speak, I note that Krugman did NOT assess Obama’s achievements in foreign policy. He can’t show such success by any reasonable metric. America continues to flounder in foreign affairs.

    Domestically, Krugman has long been saying that Obama did not go far enough in his attempts to change domestic poliicies in America. But he now gives him credit for the changes he has achieved, limited changes. OK, if one is a liberal, that is a valid set of points to praise —- “he did the best he could given the opposition”. I agree, Obama did the best he could.

    But then I say “Thank God”. Had Obama had control of congress for the last six years, just look where we might well be today. I shutter to think of such a possiblity, as a conservative. But whether we would be better or worse as a country is only a guess. I can only judge where we are today as a result of six years of Obama in the White House.

    As previously stated I believe America is in worse shape today than we were in 2008, EXCEPT with the recession staring us in the face in that year. Would a GOP led recovery be far better than the one led by Obama? I can only guess and that is all you can do as well. Remember thte recession ended officially in 2009 as I recall. Yet we still are stuggling to recover from all that fear and turmoil. I believe we could nave done much better, economically. Krugman, and you, certainly disagree with me on that point.

    Militarily and diplomatically we are in terrible shape, just terrible. And it is only getting worse in my view. All this talk of change has resulted in a diminished America around the world, at least in my view.

    Immigration still rages as an issue, race relations are worse now than in 2008 (we had no continuing riots in streets over race issues in 2008, OWS happened on Obama’s watch, and I could make a longer list. And all that happened because …………

    I did not vote for Obama because I feared what he WANTED to do. I have generally opposed him because of WHAT he achieved and do not believe many of those things have improved America. I also thank God, again, that he failed to do what he wanted to do and would have done without political opposition.

    As for the opposition, the GOP, they went too far, too loudly, too “sound bity” if you will in opposition. But reactions in phyics usually are equal and opposite. So too much asking by the left gets to much opposition from the right. And had a strong right winger been in the White House for the last six years the left would have filibustered that White House to death as well in the Senate. You know that I hope.

    Your goals for American government are too far left for me. Mine are too far right for you. So we both are dissatified with Obama now but for different reasons. Krugman said the same thing, from your side, and gave him credit for trying. Presidential legacies are established long after Presidents are dead. We’ll have to wait for legacy considerations for a few years before the jury will vote on that matter I suppose.



    • Anson,

      Sometimes I just don’t know where to begin with you. You wrote,

      As previously stated I believe America is in worse shape today than we were in 2008, EXCEPT with the recession staring us in the face in that year.

      That’s like an Ebola patient who has recovered from his or her infection saying, “I believe I am in worse shape today than I was except I no longer have Ebola.” Huh? I just don’t understand that kind of thinking.

      You are right that nobody knows whether a “GOP led recovery” would have been “far better than the one led by Obama.” You know why we don’t? Because voters in 2008 tossed out the GOP, those voters correctly perceiving that the reason we needed an Obama recovery in the first place was because of the previous “GOP led recovery” from the prosperity of the Clinton years. I hope that’s not too confusing.

      Yes, there is still “fear and turmoil” related to the economic recovery. But make no mistake about it. There has been an economic recovery, even if it hasn’t taken care of all the pre-recession structural problems that Obama also inherited. Things like declining wages and increasing inequality. I’m not sure how he was supposed to fix that when he had a tiny window where his party had an uncertain and wafer-thin margin of control of the legislative branch. I say that because a few of his party members were far closer to, say, John McCain, than they were to him. My, how time makes us forget what the dynamics of that period were.

      I hear a lot of conservatives talk about “a diminished America around the world.” Except I don’t know what that means. Is it because Obama doesn’t talk like a draft-deferring Dick Cheney? Is it because Obama hasn’t started any new wars? Does it take tough talk and starting new conflicts to project American power around the world? How did that work for the Bush administration? Let’s call Iraq and find out. Then let’s call Russia, which invaded Georgia on Bush’s watch, and ask it if Bush’s tough talk had any effect on containing its territorial ambitions. It’s all bullshit, Anson. I have no real idea of what anyone might mean by “a diminished America around the world.” The Middle East was essentially set afire by the Iraq war in 2003 and Obama, lucky man that he is, has been trying to deal with the consequences since he took office. You might remember that he opposed that war, Anson. You might remember that when you are busy talking about how “militarily and diplomatically we are in terrible shape, just terrible.”

      But these days, it appears, are all about forgetting what happened before January 20, 2009.



  3. Krugman’s right about president Obama’s achievements relative to GOP intransigence. If Obama were to nominate a resurrected Ronald Reagan for the Supreme Court, the Tea Party would oppose it as some kind of devil’s plan.

    I was in a Joplin doctor’s waiting room this morning when I overheard a conversation among three others waiting. It was one of those ain’t it awful litanies in which Obama was being blamed for just about everything. (They hadn’t gotten to the weather before being called, but it would have come eventually.) One of his mentioned sins was letting those people come over here from Africa to infect us with ebola. Never mind that Thomas Duncan was an American citizen and never mind that our travel policies have not become looser since the last Republican administration.

    These people were of an age where they were almost surely on Medicare, that infamous socialist program, but to hear them one would think the president were the evil one himself. This kind of mind set is a durable meme in this part of the country and, I submit, only a cataclysmic turn of events will ever change it. Depressing.


    • I have heard similar conversations around here, Jim. It drives my wife nuts because she is afraid I will get into a heated argument with someone one of these days because it is in my nature to challenge such ignorance and/or stupidity. It also drives my wife nuts when I try to change the channel on the waiting room TVs from Fox to MSNBC. I’m funny that way. I like to drive my wife nuts.

      The only cataclysmic event that will change the way some people around here think is if President Obama wakes up one day with white skin and starts calling Reince Priebus “daddy.” I would call that cataclysmic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. King Beauregard

     /  October 13, 2014

    The first thing to understand about Thomas Frank is that he believes that racism is not, repeat NOT, a significant factor in whatever might be the matter with Kansas. Check out this great review, especially down at the section labeled “E-raced from the Kansas backlash?”

    Thomas Frank has built his mental model around the concept that American voters are like car buyers, all walking around with the latest issue of “Consumer Reports” and trying to figure out which models will give them the best mileage, have the best repair record, etc. Therefore, in Thomas Frank’s head, if a resounding majority of Americans aren’t “buying Democrat”, it must be because what the Democrats are offering is an inferior product, and all the Democrats have to do is offer a better product and everyone will vote for them.

    A far more realistic look at things rather suggests that some people won’t vote Democrat no matter what, because they’re the party of n*****r-lovers. That’s it. Full stop. And Thomas Frank doesn’t see it.

    A couple months ago, Thomas Frank wrote an article about how Obama should do more and just plain won’t, and was roundly called out for treating Republican obstruction as if it were a non-issue, or at best a flimsy excuse. So, the week after that, Thomas Frank did what you might expect him to do: he said “nuh-uh, here’s my new black friend Cornell West who agrees with me so you know I must be right”. I’m quite certain that’s the entire reason for the Frank / West interview. You’ll notice that Frank never asked West about the role of racism in American politics, which is a shame, because he might have actually learned a thing or two. Either that or else found a different new black friend.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 14, 2014


    I can certainly understand, but not agree with, your refusal to think America today has declined from what America was in 2008. That is just politics, a subject where you and I will always disagree, most of the time.

    Actually I try to go back to about 1991, when the Soviet Union simply “went away”. Since then we have floundered in my view in foreign affairs and domestically, since about 2001 have gone downhill by a very visible set of metrics. In making such assessment, I do not blame any particular political party. I blame both political parties overall and thus the American people, as they are the ultimate driving force of American government.

    Now, even you are concerned about foreign situations. While you don’t attack our President as the radical right does today, you still are concerned. So am I and I see no current GOP leader ready to do better, either, in terms of dealing with radical Islam for starters. That situation is a dilemma for all Americans, even the heavy thinkers. As far as radical Islam is concerned there are no “experts” that I can see or hear for now.

    It is “natural” in a democracy for lots of people to clamor for “more”, for themselves or whatever group they might be associated with. A good democracy balances such clamoring, between large groups. I think of it as balance of power politics, just as Europe has long survived using a balance of power between European nations, not overall supremacy by one nation. We fought two world wars over that particular matter.

    Since then the European Union has tried to modify that national balance of power. How well is that working today, economically and militarily and diplomatically? Is Europe better off today than say in 1991? I say no and you say ……..? Is the world more stable today than in 1991. I say no and you say …….? Do you believe America today is far more (or less) of the “only superpower”. I certainly say no and you say …….? Should America even be a superpower, able to dominate international events with economic, diplomatic and military power to all be used as America sees fit?

    I can summarize that whole list of questions with another bigger question. Has the American government simply gotten far too big for its current “britches”? I say a resounding yes in that regard. American government has bitten off far more that it can chew and winds up doing very little rather “well”.

    That is exemplified by Krugman and you thinking Obama did not get “far enough” and me and mine thinking he went far too far with what he actually did, much less what he wanted to do.

    We cannot resolve that difference in a blog or a whole set of blogs and comments thereto. We can only hope that the vast political differences can be resolved in the traditional American solution of compromise. Yet there has been very little compromise since 2001. Politically we remain at loggerheads, with each side clamoring for dominance over the other.

    Daniel Silva, in his 13th book in the “Allon series” made one very brief remark as Allon was yet again fighting some form of terrorism, successfully as he always does in that fictional environment, one battle at a time. Silva, speaking through his fictional hero, said “America is bankrupt and tired”.

    If you follow the trends in that series of 14 books beginning back in about 1996, there is clear evidence of American decline in that series, year by year. Is a fictional writer correct in depicting such a trend, fictionally. I for one at least have been following that trend in his books and agree, in general, with his conclusion stated above.

    No, America is not technically bankrupt but “tired” you bet it is. Americans are very “tired” of the continuing onslaught against American values over seas. Our political responses since 2001 have reflected long term confusion, concerns about money for our military, a long term domestic concern, anger really, over our lack of progress economically and all the rancor politically continues to reflect such American concerns.

    I could go on, and on, but so what? We remain at loggerheads on the “big picture” if you will. And as the mid-terms get closer we will probably “sound bite” each other to death as the nation stuggles over who next will control the U.S. Senate.



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