At a time when Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and other wingers seem to be the loudest voices around, those on the left are rallying around a Princeton professor who rarely sets foot inside the Beltway and isn't even a fulltime journalist.

Paul Krugman, in other words, is hot.

Hot not just because he commands a choice chunk of real estate on the New York Times op-ed page, but because week after week he bashes the Bush administration for lying and worse.

Whether he's on the mark or not, Krugman has a steady drumbeat of a message--which is more than you can say for most of the '02 Democrats.

Krugman argues that the White House is pulling the wool over our eyes -- on the economy, on Social Security, on corporate malfeasance, on just about everything. (Hence the title of his book, "Fuzzy Math.") He doesn't mince words and doesn't let up. No post-ironic detachment here. No "on the other hand" temporizing. He sticks it to the president week after week under headlines like "Clueless in Crawford."

With most Democrats mumbling their views on Iraq and the tax cut, this is raw meat for voracious liberals who complain that the press has been way too soft on the man they view as the Supreme Court-installed president.

Krugman came under attack earlier this year for accepting $50,000 from Enron for serving on a do-little advisory board before joining the Times. He punched back, calling it "part of a broader effort by conservatives to sling Enron muck toward their left, hoping that some of it would stick."

A Krugman sampling from recent months:

"This administration is run by and for people who have profited handsomely from their insider connections. (Remember Harken and Halliburton?)"

"For all the differences between the moderate father and the deeply conservative son, now as then we have an administration whose key figures are fundamentally uninterested in and uncomfortable with economic policy."

"The shifting rationale for the Bush tax cut -- it's about giving back the surplus; no, it's a demand stimulus; no, it's a supply-side policy -- should havewarned us that this was an obsession in search of a justification. The shifting rationale for war with Iraq -- Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks; no, but he's on the verge of developing nuclear weapons; no, but he's a really evil man (which he is) -- has a similar feel."

"The Bush team's Orwellian propensities have long been apparent to anyone following its pronouncements on economics. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. George W. Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security always depended on the assertion that 2-1=4."

Whether he's inspirational or ideological, he has the academic's knack for building an argument by marshaling facts.

The Washington Monthly's Nicholas Confessore offers an in-depth look at Krugman, including the little-known facts that he was a junior economics staffer in the Reagan administration, was eyed as a top Clinton appointee and is said to have been barred by Howell Raines during the '00 campaign from accusing Bush of "lying" -- but uses the L-word now:

"For nearly two years, Krugman has been the columnist every Democrat in the country feels they need to read--and every Bush Republican loves to hate.

"Krugman's primacy is based largely on his dominance of a particular intellectual niche. As major columnists go, he is almost alone in analyzing the most important story in politics in recent years--the seamless melding of corporate, class, and political party interests at which the Bush administration excels. Like most people, the Washington press, and especially pundits, were slow to grasp the magnitude of the shift. Krugman, whether puncturing the fuzzy math of Bush's tax cut or eviscerating the deceptive accounting behind Bush's Social Security plans or highlighting the corruption behind Dick Cheney's energy task force, has nearly always been the first mainstream writer to describe--and condemn--Bushonomics in plain English.

"As an economist, of course, Krugman surely has an edge over most liberal pundits; his sterling academic reputation gives his critiques a punch that few Democratic politicians or liberal editorialists could hope for. But in truth, little that Krugman writes about has relied on his academic expertise. His columns aren't about trade theory or stochastic calculus, but about flagrant deceptions and fourth-grade arithmetic. What makes Krugman interesting, in short, is not just why he writes what he writes. It's why nobody else does."

This Saudi money revelation was big on the Sunday shows yesterday:

"Reports that charitable contributions from the Saudi embassy inadvertently may have aided two Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists could both intensify criticism of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and exacerbate strains between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia," says the Wall Street Journal.

"The controversy erupted at a sensitive time for both countries. The U.S. is trying to win support from its Persian Gulf ally, including permission to launch aircraft from its soil, in case of a U.S.-led war against Iraq. Even before the latest revelations, U.S.-Saudi relations had been badly bruised by allegations by some lawmakers and others that the kingdom hasn't cooperated enough in shutting down the funding of terror networks, and because 15 of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were Saudis.

"The incident, which first broke during the weekend in a Newsweek magazine report, stirred up a political storm. 'The greatest weakness in the president's foreign policy is that he refuses to tell the Saudis, "Fess up, which side of the fence are you on?"' Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday on ABC-TV's 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos.' .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi crown prince's foreign-policy adviser, appeared on a number of weekend TV talk shows, denying any links between contributions made by the Saudi ambassador's wife, Princess Haifa al Faisal, and the Sept. 11 terrorists."

During the midterm elections, health care was barely a blip, except for the political pandering to the elderly over prescription drugs. But today the New York Times has a lengthy piece on "the 41 million Americans who do not have health insurance today. Once thought to be a problem chiefly of the poor and the unemployed, the health care crisis is spreading up the income ladder and deep into the ranks of those with full-time jobs.

"According to recently released Census Bureau figures, 1.4 million Americans lost their health insurance last year, an increase largely attributed to the economic slowdown and resulting rise in unemployment. The largest group of the newly uninsured -- some 800,000 people -- had incomes in excess of $75,000. They either lost their jobs, or were priced out of the health care market by rapidly rising insurance premiums. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"While it is true that the number of uninsured people rises when unemployment goes up, it is also true that the rolls of the uninsured can expand even when joblessness is going down, as it did through most of the 1990's. The numbers of uninsured during the last recession from 1990-92 jumped to 35.4 million from 32.9 million. But the number continued to rise even in the boom years of the mid- to late 1990's, reaching 40.7 million in 1998 before dipping slightly in 1999 and 2000."

It's been the elephant in the room for a long time. Wonder why Gore didn't pipe up about a single-payer health system before Election Day.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman hammers home a key point about post-election Washington and the soon-to-be House Majority Leader, Rep. Tom DeLay:

"All of Washington knows DeLay as 'The Hammer.' But when the Congress returns in January, he will become an entire toolbox -- and one that the president will have to handle with care. As the new majority leader (Dick Armey retired), DeLay will control the flow of legislation and committee assignments in the one chamber -- the House -- that can actually be controlled. (Running the Senate, says Lott, is like trying to haul bullfrogs in a wheelbarrow.)

"DeLay's former lieutenants (including Hastert) control all key positions, and won all elections last week for new leadership slots. A staunch conservative with an unrivaled, ever-evolving fund-raising machine, DeLay may be the opponent that focuses the mind of confused and rudderless Democrats. He can also be Bush's best friend -- guarding the president's right flank, playing the tough legislative cop (think of a domestic Donald Rumsfeld) and blessing final deals. Or he can become his fellow Texan's worst enemy (and White House adviser Karl Rove's worst nightmare), leading 'The Base' in revolt if he decides that Bush, like his father, really isn't True Right enough. 'He's King of the Hill,' says a GOP insider.

"Delay's wish list for next year includes bans on partial-birth abortion and human cloning, and tax cuts that go well beyond the president's initial aim of making his 10-year income-tax reductions permanent. He is eager to take the lead in demonizing the trial lawyers, who have long since replaced Big Labor and 'welfare cheats' as the GOP's favorite bogeymen. Increasingly venturing into foreign policy, he's given hard-line speeches against Yasir Arafat and Saddam Hussein -- harbingers of the Bushies' own uncompromising line."

Sounds like he'll be kinda busy.

Did you get a version of this Reuters report, carried by the Los Angeles Times, over the weekend?

"Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Friday that he had rejected an offer by his chief spokeswoman to resign after she was quoted as calling President Bush a moron.

"The reported remark by Francoise Ducros during a NATO summit in Prague prompted demands from Canadian opposition politicians that she be fired. Chretien told journalists that no one in the U.S. delegation had referred to the comments during several meetings at the summit and he joked that Ducros uses the word 'moron' regularly.

"'She said to me that if it's causing too much of a problem, she offered her resignation, and I did not accept that because it was a private conversation.' The offending quote, as reported in the National Post and the Sun Media chain of newspapers, was, 'What a moron.'",0,7670069.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dpolitics

Happy to have the full, nuanced context.

The New Republic isn't happy with Teddy K's French flair:

"Look closely at Tuesday's failed vote to strip sleazy Republican fine print from the Homeland Security bill and you'll notice that, while there are 100 U.S. senators, the 52-47 tally only adds up to 99. No, Strom Thurmond wasn't sleeping. And yes, Bob Torricelli is still a free man. Actually, the senator who missed this crucial roll call was none other than that liberal lion, Ted Kennedy. And where was Kennedy? In Paris, of all places, for the opening of a new exhibit showcasing Jackie Kennedy's designer dresses.

"Now, given the final margin, Kennedy's absence might not seem like a big deal. But the final margin was misleading. Kennedy's real value would have been in the run-up to the vote itself, as the Democratic leadership tried to persuade wavering senators--who often jump onto whichever side seems likely to prevail--that their amendment would succeed."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page joins the Daschle/Limbaugh fray:

"It's a wonder that Rush Limbaugh is walking the streets a free man, at least the way Tom Daschle tells it. With America on the verge of war with Saddam Hussein, the economy sputtering, and Osama bin Laden looking alive if not well, what threat to the American way of life did the outgoing Senate majority leader deplore in his valedictory address? Rush Limbaugh.

"'What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen,' Mr. Daschle told reporters Wednesday. 'They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and--on our families and on us in a way that's very disconcerting.' He went on to liken what listeners are getting on talk radio to Islamic fundamentalism. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Now there's no doubt that conservative hosts dominate the medium. But the accusation that talk radio is pushing emotional buttons is rich coming from Mr. Daschle. After all, during his tenure as leader the Democratic Party's idea of debate has been to run an ad of a child asking 'May I please have some more arsenic in my water, Mommy?' or to put up a cartoon on its Web site depicting George W. Bush pushing a wheelchair-bound granny off a cliff."

National Review's Jonah Goldberg is less than impressed with the Gore media blitz:

"Well, the man from Carthage is back and he is everywhere: a hard-hitting interview with Barbara Walters -- if by hard-hitting you mean, 'like an old woman putting all of her strength into smacking a pillow with a Nerf bat' -- a chat with David Letterman, a conversation with NPR, another with Larry King, two with Katie Couric, and exchanges with the Washington Post and Time magazine and, if trends continue, a heart-wrenching confessional in the Food Lion penny saver. And he's come out in favor of a single-payer health-care system, which must be of little comfort to former opponent Bill Bradley, who favored such a system only to be relentlessly mocked and attacked for it by Gore. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"I'd like to pat myself on the back about a few things too. When CNN announced it was going to pay Paula Zahn several million dollars a year to host that network's new morning show, I could have handled the whole thing very differently. Rather than go on about my life and work, I could have put on a giant sandwich-board sign reading 'Paula Took My Job' and marched up and down outside CNN headquarters throwing macaroni salad at anybody trying to enter. However, I concluded this wasn't the responsible course of action.

"When William F. Buckley tapped Rich Lowry to be the new editor of National might have said, 'Who the hell are you?' because he'd never heard of or met me, but I still could have done it. But, I took the high road.

"So I know what courage it must have taken for Al Gore to decide not to commit himself to guerrilla action against the president of the United States and our governing institutions for four years (which would include the first three years of the war on terror, by the way)."

Ron Brownstein turns book critic in the Los Angeles Times:

"It's a safe bet that between presidential runs, Adlai Stevenson and Richard Nixon never felt compelled to share with the American people their views on how fathers should relate to their children or whether elementary schools should cut down on the sweets at lunch.

"But that's exactly what Al Gore, the once and perhaps future Democratic presidential candidate, has done in the new book he's written with his wife, Tipper -- 'Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family.'

"How you feel about that will probably go a long way toward explaining how you feel about Gore overall. To Gore admirers, the book will demonstrate an intelligence, curiosity and engagement that many of them see lacking in the Oval Office's current occupant. Those who don't like Gore, in both parties, will probably see the book as proof that he's lost in the clouds, lost in the weeds or, in some anatomical marvel, both.

"Both camps might agree that this is unlike any book ever written by anyone thinking about running for president. It's not a memoir; it's not a call to arms; it's not even much of a policy blueprint on issues affecting families. Gore had plenty of recommendations on that front from his 2000 campaign, but he passes over them lightly here.",0,3367947.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dtodays%2Dtimes

All of which makes us wonder:

Since Gore has been plugging "Joined at the Heart" on ABC/NBC/CNN/NYT/WP/LAT/WSJ, not to mention with Charlie Rose, the wires and Salon, how come the book was, as of yesterday, No. 718 on Amazon's best-seller list?