Obama vs. Krugman

OBAMA vs. KRUGMAN….The brewing war between Barack Obama and Paul Krugman continues here. Krugman has been hitting Obama pretty hard lately, and I can understand why the Obama campaign has hit back: Krugman is extremely influential among likely Obama voters, and they can’t afford to just let his grumbles sit there unanswered. What’s more, Krugman isn’t some kind of progressive Delphic oracle. It’s OK to fight back against him.

Still, attacking Krugman as inconsistent, as they did on Friday, is indeed bizarre. He hasn’t been. What’s more, although it’s true that Krugman prefers the Edwards/Clinton approach on both healthcare and Social Security, his complaint isn’t primarily with the substance of Obama’s plans anyway. Rather, his complaint is with Obama’s rhetoric, which has been fundamentally an attack from the right that will only make it harder for progressives to fight similar-sounding right-wing attacks in the future.

So why is Obama doing this? Via Jerome Armstrong, MyDD diarist thirdestate speculates:

I’ve been considering these questions for some time, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that Obama is trying to win the “media primary”….My suspicion is that Barack is attempting to appease/manipulate the class of establishment pundits, and with them the press corps as a whole….By making noises about Social Security and [healthcare] mandates, Obama is feeding the media beast. Heck, it might even work, if recent polls are any evidence.

This sounds disturbingly plausible to me. Every four years the media finds itself swooning over some candidate that it crowns as a “truthteller,” and they’ve pretty much already anointed Obama in that role this year. But rather than leaving well enough alone — the smart strategy — I can’t help but think that Obama has decided that he should actively court the Tim Russerts and Tom Friedmans of the world, the ones who ritually demand bipartisan pain as the only solution to America’s problems.

Maybe it’ll work. Who knows? But it’s a dangerous, short-term game, and I don’t have to like it. And I don’t.