Friday, October 29


Awesome interview with Big Paul (Krugman) and good advice for President John Kerry:

TO: The day after the election, what’s the column if Kerry wins?

PK: Do not be magnanimous in victory. I hope the people around him understand that this is not politics as we know it. It’s not, “OK, well, we won an election. After the election we’ll get together and work in a bipartisan way to help the country.” They didn’t work in a bipartisan way when the United States was attacked. They immediately saw it as a way to achieve political dominance. Kerry has got to understand that he has a window of opportunity to expose what’s going on and to rock these people back to the point where we can try to reclaim the normal workings of democracy. Unless there’s a true miracle and the Democrats take the House—which is extremely unlikely—it’s going to be very bitter political civil war from Day One. The House leadership will try to undermine Kerry. I’m sure they’ll try to impeach him almost immediately. On anything.

We can go on and on about Tom DeLay, but the point is Tom DeLay is not an aberrant thing. He’s not an accident. The whole thrust of where we’ve been going for a couple of decades in this country has been towards putting someone like Tom DeLay in a position of great power. So, my column to Kerry, my open letter to him if he wins, will be: Do not be magnanimous. You need to expose and dismantle this machine.
TO: In writing about the cult of personality surrounding the president, you mention the 27 photographs of him that appear in the 2005 Budget.
PK: I actually went to check and looked at a budget from the Clinton years. It’s a rather dry-looking thing with charts and tables. The Bush budget is very much short on charts and tables–it’s better not to think about what would be in them. But it has these themes, uplifting themes of various kinds and each of them is illustrated with multiple glossy color photos of Bush doing presidential-type things. Obviously you see him standing in front of a giant American flag talking about homeland security, but you also see him hiking along a mountain trail, comforting the elderly, helping children learn how to read. It really does look like something from a Communist country. You know, I joked when I wrote about it that they forgot the photo of him swimming the Yangtze River. It’s very un-American, but it fits in with Operation Flight Suit—that kind of stagecraft, that glorification of the individual leader. What I wrote at the time of the carrier landing is that in the American tradition, the president is a civilian—even if he’s a former general. The president does not appear in uniform; he’s not a generalísimo; he’s not a hero. That’s why the Constitution says the president is the commander-in-chief: to make it very clear that civilian authority, not military, runs the country. And then here we are doing these things that are really something that you would expect to see in a banana republic.

TO: What’s the column if Bush wins?
PK: I don’t really want to think about that. The problem is there are different ways he could win, too.

TO: Jimmy Carter has already written an op-ed in The Washington Post saying that the basic international conditions for a fair election are not there in Florida.
PK: We’re within inches of having most of the world, actually all of the world, and quite a few Americans, believing that we’re no longer a functioning democracy. That could happen a month from now. Moderates and liberals made a terrible mistake in 2000. Their attitude was well, this was very bad, but the right thing to do was to basically gloss over it and pretend it’s okay. That just encouraged these guys. It should have been a mobilizing point. Instead, everything we really know about the voting looks worse this year…. Sometimes it’s a little soothing to read history. I have developed a big taste for the novels of Alan Furst, who writes these historical thrillers set in the thirties and forties in Europe. I think the very darkness of it—the fact that we know that it all came out okay, makes you sort of feel better. The other book I read in the last couple of weeks was Rubicon, a new, rather well-written story about the fall of the Roman republic. You find yourself doing that sort of thing. Me and Robert Byrd.


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