In a sane world, Paul Krugman's reputation shouldn't be at risk today. But it is.
Not only is the establishment press irritated with Krugman's latest article, "Hillary Clinton Gets Gored," in which he highlights the journalistic malpractice evidenced in the news media's amplification of Hillary Clinton's non-scandal scandals over Donald Trump's lengthy menu of real scandals and obscene negatives, but also, strangely, a vocal faction of the left believes Krugman is water-carrying for his "beloved candidate" Hillary.
The latter is perhaps as equally confounding as the former, especially knowing what Krugman and others objectively observe as an historically apocalyptic GOP candidate is slowly closing the polling gap with the far more qualified Democratic rival.
After a full month in which Trump's campaign bungled and botched its way through the first third of the general election and completely absent any newsworthy reason to shift to a "Trump redemption" narrative, the press is rapidly fabricating one. Even though Trump's charitable foundation was investigated and fined by the Internal Revenue Service for a pay-to-play deal in Florida, cable news is instead emphasizing the Clinton Foundation's alleged scandal in which nothing illegal has been uncovered.
Worse, we've already witnessed the mainstreaming of white nationalism, as political analyst Soledad O'Brien observed on CNN over the long weekend. We're also beginning to see news segments about Hillary's alleged health issues — her coughing jag on Tuesday became national news, thanks to Trump and the screeching commandant of his paranoid flying monkeys, Alex Jones.
Even the so-called liberal network, NBC, reported on Hillary's health:
Hillary Clinton Struggles to Fight Back Coughing Attack https://t.co/9tuHL6BVcK
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) Sept. 5, 2016
This is precisely the kind of malpractice Krugman wrote about.
He also observed that the news media's desperate attempt to mischaracterize the candidates in this election — overemphasizing Hillary's minuscule email and foundation stories while de-emphasizing Trump's more scandalous, disqualifying negatives — is not unlike what occurred 16 years ago during the 2000 election. Candidate George W. Bush was a "straightforward guy," we were told, while Al Gore was "slippery and dishonest." The upshot was a pervasively false narrative that both candidates were equally shoddy or at best equally qualified.
This time, however, a similar false equivalence could precipitate a far more damaging outcome, even knowing the awful legacy of the Bush presidency. Trump, by any measure, be it on public policy, decorum or X factors we can't begin to predict, would be phenomenally worse than Bush, and that's understating the threat.
Yet there's still a considerably sizable chunk of non-Trump supporters who disagree. In other words, Trump's base aside, there are those in the press and on the left, amazingly, who fail to grasp how potentially catastrophic Trump's presidency would be. While many begrudgingly acknowledge Trump's downsides, there's an entirely disingenuous movement afoot to yank Hillary down to Trump's level.
Indeed, many of the culprits tend to be former Bernie Sanders supporters who currently endorse Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Check the comments below and you'll probably see a few. They earnestly believe Hillary and Trump are generally on the same level, while some of them will tell you with a straight face that Hillary is much worse than Trump. Bigger picture: They further believe that a Trump presidency might bring about a backlash that will inaugurate a progressive majority. Maybe. That said, they refuse to own the bottomless pit of sheer madness that'd ensue in the interim.
Meanwhile, the pro-Stein #JillNotHill crowd has been joined by The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald who wrote a lengthy evisceration of Paul Krugman on Monday, accusing the acclaimed economist and author of simply shilling for his candidate. On the other hand, Krugman's article mainly focused on accurately detailing the emergence of anti-Clinton innuendo and "the impression that [Trump's] being graded on a curve."
If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.
Yet Greenwald seems to disagree, sarcastically teasing the "wildly adored" Krugman for taking a stand against, in some cases, the reporting of his own paper, The New York Times.
Greenwald goes on to hyperbolically suggest, "There is probably no more die-hard Clinton loyalist in the U.S. media than Paul Krugman," adding that while it's OK to criticize Trump, it's equally OK to focus on Hillary's trespasses, despite the reality that Hillary's downsides are nowhere near as horrendous as Trump's overflowing colostomy bag of awfulness. Indeed, coverage of the Clinton Foundation story has vastly outweighed coverage of the Trump Foundation story, even though the latter is a real thing and the former is maybe, perhaps, someday a story. Or not.
A search for coverage in the Nexis database, which contains almost all English language print and broadcast sources, found just 23 mentions of the “Trump Foundation” since September 1. That was vastly overshadowed by continual coverage of the Clinton Foundation, even though it was not the foundation linked to any illegal activity.
Based on his latest, it's difficult to take Greenwald seriously when he tosses into the mix his seemingly throwaway qualifiers about the GOP nominee's treachery or how it's fine for opinion journalists to support Hillary. It’s convenient cover for Greenwald’s scolding of anyone who fails to see parity between, say, the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation.
While he's stated on several occasions how much he loathes Trump, Greenwald seems to be suggesting that both candidates deserve equal scrutiny, even if the accusations against the Democratic nominee range from wacky Alex Jones conspiracy theories to, as Krugman wrote, debunked innuendo, and even though no one who's paying attention can possibly find equivalence between the two candidates, we should endeavor to dig one up.
Greenwald wrote: "[J]ournalists should be subjecting Clinton’s financial relationships, associations, and secret communications to as much scrutiny as Donald Trump’s." By elevating and emphasizing anti-Hillary scrutiny, Greenwald is urging reporters to offer de facto cover to Trump and an excuse for undecided voters to swing to the red side of the scoreboard.
In other words, history has predicted the outcome: News consumers will take away the inaccurate conclusion that Hillary and Trump are both equally crooked. This undeniably helps Trump since his list of negatives is considerably longer. Yet paraphrasing Stephen Colbert, when we compare the two contenders, reality has a well-known pro-Hillary bias.
Further undermining Greenwald's point is the reality that Hillary has been relentlessly scrutinized for 30 years. It's not as if the press has shied away from concern-trolling and raising suspicions about her qualifications every time she sneezes too loudly. The difference now, however, is that Hillary is the only human being standing between the world and a would-be President Trump. Fabricating scandals, mainstreaming conspiracy theories and drawing false equivalences about Hillary isn't good journalism. If there's a story backed by substance that's of a scale equivalent to Trump's myriad scandals, fine. Until that story emerges, it makes zero sense to artificially induce one to the benefit of a prospective clown-dictator.