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Ill-mannered bumpkin 

Russell Baker reviews Paul Krugman’s latest collection in The New York Review of Books. Baker doesn’t particularly reveal anything new about Krugman, but I liked his characterisations of typical political columnists.

“From the White House viewpoint criticism itself was bad enough — Bush people are famous for thin skin — but the really troublesome problem was that Krugman seemed to know what he was talking about. This is not entirely unheard of among political columnists, but the typical Washington pundit is stupefyingly uninformed about economics, a field in which Krugman is exceedingly well informed. He had the professional skills needed to tell when the political rhetoric was nonsense and he took a short-tempered professor’s sadistic delight in holding oafs up to ridicule.

“The vocabulary Krugman applied to the President bristled with words such as ‘dishonesty,’ ‘lying,’ ‘mendacity,’ and ‘fraud.’ Among political pundits such language verges on the taboo. As a class, political columnists do not shrink from the occasional well poisoning, but on matters of etiquette they are conservative to the verge of stuffiness, and they tend to view plain speech as the mark of the ill-mannered bumpkin.”

The conclusion: “Krugman has been strident. He has been shrill. He has lowered the dignity of the commentariat. How refreshing.”

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