New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says President Barack Obama has adopted a right-wing mindset on American politics and is allowing conservative “mythology” to instruct his view of US history.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist and superstar commentator of the left excoriated Obama’s allegation that President Franklin Roosevelt initially dragged his feet on the Great Depression for political purposes.
“We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly,” Obama told liberal bloggers recently in a private meeting.
On his Times blog, Krugman dismissed this as a “right-wing smear.” “What actually happened” between FDR’s election and inauguration, he wrote, is that “Herbert Hoover tried to rope FDR into maintaining his policies, including rigid adherence to the gold standard and fiscal austerity. FDR declined to be part of this.”
The columnist saw Obama’s remarks as part of a pattern or acquiescing to conservative”myths” and concluded that he shows no signs of being the transformational president — a sort of Ronald Reagan of the left — that he expressed a desire to be during the 2008 campaign.
“More and more, it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion,” Krugman wrote. “Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.”
Obama, for his part, has vigorously defended his record against his liberal critics, arguing that the complexities of governance and the limitations of the presidency suggest that passing the stimulus, health care and financial reform are worthy progressive accomplishments.
Still, Krugman’s critique suggests that the growing fissure between Obama and the progressive base may have reached an all-time high. The persistent liberal misgiving is that the Democratic president is failing to fight back against Republicans, but Krugman goes so far as to suggest Obama has embraced the conservative outlook of his adversaries.
It also signifies how radically polarized Obama’s critics on the left and right are — leading conservatives have repeatedly and forcefully accused the president of being a leftist ideologue, an accusation that belies his frequent desire to compromise with Republicans and accept half a loaf on key legislative priorities.