Factual Challenges

The New York Times Book Review assigned Stanford history professor David Kennedy to review Paul Krugman's new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal." It is an extremely negative review. I have not read the book so can not comment on it but I did read the review. And I found it inconsistent to say the least. For example, after chiding Krugman for being, in Kennedy's words, "factually shaky," he then writes:

For this dismal state of affairs the Democratic Party is held to be blameless. Never mind the Democrats’ embrace of inherently divisive identity politics, or Democratic condescension toward the ungrammatical yokels who consider their spiritual and moral commitments no less important than the minimum wage or the Endangered Species Act, nor even the Democrats’ vulnerable post-Vietnam record on national security.

Ummm, that all sounds factually shaky to me. What is the basis of Kennedy's statement? A fact or 2 to support this sweeping claim, especially from someone throwing stones, might have been in order. Kennedy continues:

As Krugman sees it, the modern Republican Party has been taken over by radicals. “There hasn’t been any corresponding radicalization of the Democratic Party, so the right-wing takeover of the G.O.P. is the underlying cause of today’s bitter partisanship.” No two to tango for him. The ascendancy of modern conservatism is “an almost embarrassingly simple story,” he says, and race is the key. “Much of the whole phenomenon can be summed up in just five words: Southern whites started voting Republican. ... End of story.” A fuller and more nuanced story might at least gesture toward the role that environmental and natural-resource issues have played in making red-state country out of the interior West, not to mention the unsettling effects of the “value issues” on voters well beyond Dixie. . . .

Again, this seems factually shaky to me. A few facts to support his view on this. As far I can see, Kennedy replaces his opinions for Krugman's. Fair enough. But not fair enough when a reviewer is decrying factual shakiness.

Now this part just seems plain dumb to me:

For all that he inveighs against the evils of partisanship, Krugman astonishingly concludes by repudiating the chimera of “bipartisan compromise” and declaring that “to be a progressive, then, means being a partisan — at least for now.”

What is astonishing about that? Krugman's point is that faced with a Republican Party that will not engage in bipartisanship or even nod a progressive goals, there is little choice for anyone looking to advance a progressive agenda. Krugman has made the commonsense, almost obvious, observation that when the Republican Party has definitively eschewed "bipartisanship," it is impossible to embrace it. Indeed, in Kennedy's words, it takes two to tango.

Kennedy's misunderstanding of this simple and obvious insight leads him to write silliness like this:

Indeed, at times he seems more intent on settling his neocon adversaries’ hash than on advancing solutions to vexed policy issues. “Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy,” he writes, a sentence that both stylistically and substantively says much about the shortcomings of this book.

But this is the whole point. You can not "advance solutions to vexed policy issues" without settling partisan hash, thanks to the takeover of the Republican Party by the most extreme movements in our country. And here's the funny thing - Kennedy AGREES:

That assorted wing nuts have pretty much managed to hijack the Republican Party in recent years is scarcely in doubt.

But Kennedy fails to address Krugman's thesis that to "advance solutions to vexed policy issues," today's extremist Republican Party must be defeated and the Republican Party must be remade in order to allow for the much desired "bipartisnship" that Kennedy, following the High Broderism, desires against all odds.

In short, the review is pretty lousy.

< "Media Critic" | A Smarter Gonzales? >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Thamks (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 11:38:08 AM EST
    What an idiot. This, on the other hand, is pretty good.

    Wonder why he sounds like such a  moron here? Must be that he is a true believer in Capitalism and market forces trump all, with market forces having "the occasional fluke".

    Has he read the Powell Memo, followed the path of the Young Republicans and Jack Abramoff's et al. career?  The fact that the wingnuts have hijacked the Republican Party is not just some fluke and to underestimate how that has come to be is a big part of the problem the Democratic party faces today.

    It is politics, stupid, and the wing nuts know this all too well.  

    Kennedy's review IS lousy (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 11:50:51 AM EST
    He does make several bald assertions. Reading Kennedy's review, I would believe:

    1. All modern economists are  laissez-faire purists and therefore Paul Krugman is not an economist (I'm not making this up)
    2. The ascendancy of modern conservatism owes as much to environmental and natural-resource issues in the interior West as Nixon's Southern Strategy.

    Its hard to look at the last 40 years and not conclude racism was the major force in the GOP's success. Yes land use in the West may have played a part as Kennedy points out, but honestly, which was more important to GOP electoral success?

    Simple math that even a historian can do, will tell you the electoral the combined total of electoral votes of the eleven Southern states is more votes than the combined total of the interior West.

    Kennedy's problem is overt racism is easy to document, and code phrases like "welfare queens" and  "law and order"  are not. The people who use code phrases, understand what they are doing and they use code phrases for plausible denial, so timid professors, like  Kennedy, won't call them on it.

    Then there is  Kennedy's deliberate misconstruing of Krugman's use of Rambo to illustrate the "stabbed in the back" myth the right has been making use of since at least Yalta and reached its apogee with Vietnam (though I note they are trying to resurrect it one more time for Iraq).

    Finally there is the Krugman = Limbaugh. Limbaugh is a propgandist. Krugman is qualified to make and is making an economic judgment and you might quibble with Krugman's use of history, it is not that far off the mark and I don't think Kennedy is qualified to quibble with Krugman on economics.

    Just Desserts (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by aztrias on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 12:16:59 PM EST
    As annoyed as I was at Kennedy's review, I have to laugh that Rumsfeld will soon join him at Stanford.

    The faculty are unhappy. Rumsfeld joins Stanford's "prestigious" Hoover Institute. The complaints are with the quality of the man, not his politics. He's not up to Stanford's high standards. Kennedy demonstrates otherwise.

    The Times gave Kennedy a forum to eviscerate Krugman and he failed.  His hack of a review reinforces what Stanford faculty fear -- their brand is eroding by conservative welfare and hackery.

    What good is selling a prestigious brand if the actors can't preform to standard?  Leland Stanford Jr. University.

    It's Kennedy who should apologize (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Ellie on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 12:21:55 PM EST
    Democratic condescension toward the ungrammatical yokels who consider their spiritual and moral commitments no less important than the minimum wage or the Endangered Species Act

    Of course Dems are going to make fun of the King of the Yokels and his phony down home "real" pals.

    Bush went to the best prep schools money and connections could buy, got his undeserving ass into Yale over more qualified and deserving students and has no excuse for having a vocabulary smaller than that of Koko, the late, great signing primate.

    Granted, GWB is slightly more adept at peeling a banana with his feet but he had more practice during his frat days when he was slamming back the brewskies two-fisted and fast!

    "extremist control" (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by diogenes on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 08:48:18 PM EST
    The George W. Bush administration is controlled by big public spenders and neoconservatives.  Hardly the extremists of the party.  Actually the extremists have been pretty disappointed with both Bushes, so it is hard to say that they actually controlled the party.  Sort of like Moveon being disappointed with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

    40 years at Stanford (none / 0) (#5)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 02:42:10 PM EST
    David Kennedy has been on the Stanford campus for forty years. Forty years at Stanford can make a history professor with an emphasis on economics a little cranky. It's not a surprise that Kennedy would rip anything that Krugman writes. What's more interesting is why the NY Times assigned him to review the book. I suspect that the powers that be aren't particularly happy with Krugman, and this is a way to apply some punishment.

    after reading dr. krugman's recent (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 03:35:09 PM EST
    column, where he gives the media a pass on their complicitness in the evisceration of al gore, before, during and after the 2000 election, the time's should be happy with him. i wasn't. nor, were a lot of other people, who look to dr. krugman as one of the few rational commentators in today's mass media.

    dr. kennedy clearly has a bone to pick with dr. krugman. like the limbaugh/hannity/coulter/o'reilly, etc. coalition, facts aren't as important as unsubstantiated assertion, in picking that bone.

    the rubes won't know the difference.

    Big Tent (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 05:47:33 PM EST
    Ummm, that all sounds factually shaky to me. What is the basis of Kennedy's statement?

    You're kidding. Right??

    As Krugman sees it, the modern Republican Party has been taken over by radicals. "There hasn't been any corresponding radicalization of the Democratic Party, so the right-wing takeover of the G.O.P. is the underlying cause of today's bitter partisanship."

    Great gobs of drizzling goose fat...Can this man actually live in the US and actually write such??

    Does he NOT consider KOS to be radical? MoveOn??
    Has he forgotten some of the positions, some of the ads they have become famous for?

    You know, everytime I start to think that just maybe the Demos will comeback to the middle and work on the issues that matter to a lot of us out here... NHC, minority rights, drug law reform, tax reform, gay rights....... I read something like that.

    Good grief Charlie Krugman. Eeven Lucy has a better grasp of the world.

    Actually Kos is moderate in his politics (5.00 / 0) (#11)
    by Molly Bloom on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 09:16:14 PM EST
    but extremely partisan.  As is Move-on.

    The GOP has been taken over by extreme reactionaries (to use the proper term) who are also hyper partisan.

    Putting it another way, your allies on the GOP side of the aisle are further to the right than my allies on the Democratic side of the aisle are to the left.

    There was a time, when the opposite was true, but that hasn't been the case in over 40 years.


    tehe (1.00 / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 09:27:14 PM EST
    And the check's in the mail, the Beamer's paid for and I'm from headquarters and I'm here to help you.

    None so blind... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 08:15:30 AM EST
    Can I refer you to my (1.00 / 1) (#17)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 10:28:37 AM EST

    only if I can refer you to a brain surgeon (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 10:36:45 AM EST
    MB and DA (1.00 / 0) (#21)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 08:54:02 AM EST

    You folks having flashbacks to middle school??

    Go back and read my comments re what the Demos have done. Then think of the word:


    Main Entry: en·abler
    Pronunciation: i-'nA-b(&-)l&r
    Function: noun
    : one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior

    Yes, after encouraging them to (1.00 / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 10:24:53 AM EST
    do the dirty deed by declaring the war lost, trying to defund it, holding daily conference calls with various members of the Left, attend the yearly conference, claim our military is corrupt, etc. and etc....

    They condemned the deed.

    I am reminded of Southern politicians who would rant and rave about black men wanting to attack white women....and then act surprised when blacks were attacked.

    You are what you do, not what you claim.


    Factually challenged (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 08:30:09 AM EST
    Case in point.

    The Democrats (none / 0) (#8)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 06:02:12 PM EST
    need to come back to the middle all right. Back from the right wing where they've gone at the bidding of their corporate backers and King Bush instead of working for the actual benefit of the American people.