Paul Krugman Dismantles the Dangerously Lopsided Coverage of Trump and Clinton

Paul Krugman brings up some really unpleasant but necessary memories in Monday's column—memories of the 2000 Bush versus Gore election and the devastatingly shoddy job the media did in covering the race.


"One candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics," Krugman writes. "Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses."

But that's not how the media portrayed Bush in the run-up to his election. They gave the impression Bush was "a bluff, straightforward guy." Meanwhile, they portrayed Al Gore, "whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest," Krugman writes. "Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck."

Krugman has a sick feeling of deja vu in the coverage of Clinton and Trump. True, some of Trump's dishonesty has been reported. But he is definitely being normalized and graded on a crazy curve. The minute he does not say anything deeply offensive for a whole day, he is hailed as pivoting and being presidential. Maybe he won't immediately round up 11 million undocumented immigrants. Good for him! Meanwhile, his latest apparent criminality, payoffs to state attorneys general to stop investigating his fraudulent University, is getting almost no attention.

Compare this to the Clinton Foundation, the coverage of which Krugman calls "bizarre."

When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better thanthe American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.”

The now infamous Associated Press report, filled with innuendo, managed to dig up the fact that Clinton met with a Nobel Peace Prize winner and personal friend Muhammad Yunus. Oooooo, that's bad.

Krugman cautions readers of such reports to be aware of "weasel" words, like “raises questions,”  or creates “shadows.” 

Only one candidate in the race bilked students, stiffed workers, and from all appearances, failed to pay his share of taxes.  Which is to say nothing of being totally incoherent about policy and engaging in dangerous, violence-inciting fearmongering.

And if you'd rather have a beer with Trump, that's your problem.

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