New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman apparently hasn’t spent enough time trolling YouTube. If he had, he wouldn’t have written the following sequence in his latest column:
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
Krugman uses that text as a springboard to make the case that “at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.”
Go ahead, make that argument. But do not mischaracterize what happened in that Tampa debate in service of that argument. No “crowd erupted” during the episode in question here. Two or three hecklers piped up. That’s it. The distortion of which Krugman is guilty on this front summons parallels to Hannity and Limbaugh.
To see how an op-eder could use the same event to make the same argument while still respecting the facts, try the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson. Here’s how he articulated the matter:
Blitzer interrupted: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”
There were enthusiastic shouts of “Yeah!” from the crowd. You’d think one of the other candidates might jump in with a word about Christian kindness. Not a peep.
The Erik Wemple Blog yesterday addressed the poor interpretation of these shouts at the CNN debate, arguing that the best way to abridge the episode is, well, pretty much the way Robinson did.
But who cares what some punk blogger is inveighing about? The New York Times’ Paul Krugman has now weighed in on the matter, saying the crowd erupted. Then, hey, the crowd must have erupted! That mistaken impression will further radicalize American politics, pushing the two poles farther apart and giving Krugman more fodder for future polemics.