Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jon Chait helps me Defend Paul Krugman

Jon Chait on (among others) Paul krugman Jon Chait critiques Paul Krugman
Liberal critics reject the honest-mistake explanation. “The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong,” replies Paul Krugman, “America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war.” And the liberal critics are correct that the war was not merely an honest mistake. But they have framed their indictment of the Bush administration’s intelligence manipulation in such a way as to help it, and its defenders, evade the truth.
Thus far, Chait agrees that Krugman's claim is true, but also criticizes Krugman. He does this in such a way as to help Krugman's defenders demonstrate the truth and the invalidity of his criticism. In substance, he argues that Krugman is playing into Bush defenders hands by denying tht honest mistakes were made. To the extent there is any substance to his critique it is here
It is true that western intelligence agencies badly overestimated Iraq’s weapons capability before the invasion. The Clinton administration, France, Hans Blix, among other sources, all suspected Saddam Hussein of continuing to harbor weapons of mass destruction. They all suffered from a widespread intelligence failure.
I find his choice of pronouns odd. I believed Saddam Hussein continued to harbor VX nerve gas. I would have written that "We sufered from an intelligence failure." I also opposed the invasion (and reconsidered (but eventually stuck with) my opposition when I learned that there were no WMD in Iraq). Why does Chait, who supported the invasion, use "they" when I use "we" ? Isn├Čt his case that people honestly believed that there were WMD in Iraq strengthened by the fact he was one of those people ? But back to his critique of Krugman. He argues that Krugman leaves himself vulnerable to those who argue that honest mistakes were made by setting up a dichotomy between the claims that no one made honest mistakes and the claim that everyone, including Cheney, made only honest mistakes. What would happen if someone were to respond to Krugman's op-ed by writing "chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) " Chait argued that, in the op-ed Krugman left himself vulnerable to an argument based on noting a fact which he mentioned in that op-ed. Jon Chait is a brilliant polemicist and I'm sure he can defend himself against the accusation that he critiqued Krugman by quoting him while suppressing necessary context. I am not a brilliant polemicist and I can't imagine any possible defence of Chait's post against my claim that he quoted Krugman out of context. On the other hand, I do like his feature "Today in ‘Paul Krugman Is Definitely Not Arguing With David Brooks" and, though of it while looking for Krugman noting the fact which Chait claims he overlooked. I just went to the times and found that David Brooks is definitely not arguming with Paul Krugman when I read the title of a Brooks op-ed headline "Learning From Mistakes" (I didn't read the op-ed).

Ed Kilgore does it again

I have a very high opinion of Ed Kilgore. However, I strongly disagree with one post he wrote in which he crticized critics of the 1996 welfare reform bill. Now I have another strong disagreement about the policy debate of the 1990s. Again, I disagree with his claim about what Bill Clinton did, that is about facts in the public record.

This time the issue is the 1994 Crime bill

Kilgore wrote "Beginning in 1992, Democrats led by Bill Clinton argued for less of the lock-em-all-up mentality of the 1980s, but for more police officers deployed more intelligently."

I comment

I do not recall Bill Clinton arguing for "less of the lock-em-all-up mentality of the 1980s," I recall him saying "three strikes and you are out."


He signed a crime bill into law (passed by a congress with a Democratic majority) which mandated locking more of em up than any Federal law of the 80s.

Yes he also called for hiring more police and the bill also mandated that. But he absolutely argued for longer prison sentences, including life without parole for a third serious violent crime (including assault and battery) as required by the bill he signed into law.

https://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/billfs.txt (search for three strikes).

Yes I am grinding old axes, but historical fact is historical fact.

update: Kilgore aknowledges that Clinton signed a crime bill with a 3 strikes and you're out provision. He argues with Rand Paul. I am in the very uncomfortable position of more nearly agreeing with Rand Paul than with Ed Kilgore.

update II: I am not alone. Kilgore's latest "Engaged in a pretty long, pretty interesting listserve debate over Bill Clinton’s responsibility for policies that led to mass incarceration. But it didn’t change my mind that Rand Paul is flat out lying by pretending it didn’t all start with his own GOP." Which is pretty far from the claim that Clinton argued for "less of the lock-em-all-up mentality" isn't it ?