Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Boys and Girls! (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Economist Edition)

Matthew Yglesias peeks over the shoulder of Kevin Drum as he watches Jonathan Singer read the Economist's Lexington column. The column insults our intelligence. Matthew nails it, and calls bulls---:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: A Little Perspective.... [I]n late 2004 and early 2005, the Democrats were in danger of shrinking to become a merely regional party. Now in late 2006, the GOP is once again in danger of shrinking to become a merely regional party.... [H]ysteria... nobody is going to become merely regional -- things will just sort of swing back and forth, with the Democrats maintaining a semi-permanent reservoir of strength in the Urban Archipelago and the GOP having a similar bastion in the South...

What Lexington wrote:

[ Lexington | A national party no more? | Economist.com

](http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8360116): The Republicans are in danger of being confined to the South: The Republicans are now engaged in a fierce debate... it is missing an important aspect.... Is the Republican Party in danger of shrinking to its southern base? And is it shrinking at exactly the same time that the Democrats are becoming a more national party?

The extent of the southernisation of the Republican Party is astonishing... all but wiped out in... the north-east... big losses in... the Mountain West.... The only place where the national tide had little impact was in the South.... [A] regional stronghold can become a prison.... [N]on-southerners have grown particularly impatient with the South's brand of in-your-face religiosity....

One should be wary of reading too much into the result of a single election.... But the Democratic advances were more than just a fluke.... The danger for the Republicans is that they will respond... by retreating to their heartland. The incoming Republican delegation will be more southern and more conservative than ever. It is hardly encouraging that the Senate Republicans have just reinstalled Mississippi's Trent Lott as one of their leaders...

Me? I remember that it wasn't all that long ago that the Economist proclaimed that George W. Bush was a political master, that the Republican Party was on its way to global dominance, and that America was becoming an ever more right-wing nation. The Economist, and especially its Lexington, were not the worst of the journamalistic clowns comparing George W. Bush favorably to Winston S. Churchill, but they were the most disappointing. You see, they knew better. And we knew they knew better. And they knew we knew they knew better. And we knew they knew we knew they knew better. But they kept on doing it.

I am bemused at the rapidity and... enthusiasm... with which Lexington appears to be switching gears. Why, on November 2 Lexington began a column by asserting that the Democrats' congressional leader was a political disaster. I call bulls--- on:

Nov 2 2006: NANCY PELOSI... made for caricature... the very embodiment of privileged liberalism... representative of a city, San Francisco, that, as far as most Americans are concerned, is synonymous with ageing hippies, lay-about trustfunders, aggressive beggars and gay parades. Ms Pelosi's public appearances do her no favours... she talks drivel... a mixture of robotic talking-points (the Republicans are guilty of “the politics of corruption”) and clumsy alliteration (the Democrats are a “great collection of idealism, intellect and integrity”). It's like listening to a cross between a Stepford wife and Jesse Jackson...

And back in March Brad Setser was calling bulls--- on:

Mar 27 2006: Brad Setser: The Economist's Lexington columnist needs to get out a bit more.... Rather amazingly, the only US public intellectuals... on... Lexington's radar screen come from the American right. The Neocon right and its pet idea (invading Iraq), the economic right and its pet idea (tax cuts), the Harvey C- Mansfield right and its pet idea (manliness). And the ubiquitous Charles Murray. Lexington could not find any public intellectuals (or ideas) from the center, the center-left or the left worthy of mention.... Or any one working on ideas to remake America's costly and increasingly dysfunctional health care system. Warmed-over proposals to provide high-income Americans with yet another tax deduction (health savings accounts) hardly count as innovative...

And back in January Brendan Nyhan was calling superbulls--- on:

Jan 10 2006: Brendan Nyhan: What is John Micklethwait talking about?... [offers] this ridiculous analysis: "As a result, a president who stormed back to power in 2004 with more votes than any previous candidate will spend a good deal of 2006 on the defensive." Using the number of votes as a metric of electoral success is ridiculous. (Ever heard of population growth?) By more standard metrics such as presidents' popular vote and Electoral College margins, Bush's re-election victory was one of the closest in history... "the smallest margin of victory for a reelected president since 1828."... Not exactly storming back to power...

And the previous November Henry Farrell was calling supersuperbulls--- on:

Nov 17 2005: The Democrats risk painting themselves as either opportunists (who turn against a war when it goes badly) or buffoons (too dim to question faulty intelligence when it mattered). They also risk exacerbating their biggest weakness—-their reputation for being soft on terrorism and feeble on national security.... Mr Bush... one big advantage: the charge that he knew all along that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction seems to be a farrago of nonsense.... Mr Bush made... honest [mistakes] made for defensible reasons.... [H]e was not alone in thinking that, after September 11th, America should never again err on the side of complacency. More than 100 Democrats in Congress voted to authorise the war. But being right and being seen to be right are different things...

Not to mention this:

Nov 24, 2005: Dick Cheney may be hugely unpopular, but George Bush needs him badly...

And in March of 2005 I called supersupersuperbulls--- on the declaration that Wolfowitz's nomination to the World Bank was not a joke:

Mar 16, 2005: [Wolfowitz's] lack of experience... does not necessarily make him a bad candidate. Having served under Donald Rumsfeld... Mr Wolfowitz might... be well placed to bring radical change to an organisation sorely in need of it...

But the champion column on which supersupersupersuperbulls--- needs to be called, I think, comes from March 2003:

Jul 5 2003: Lexington: Hilary Clinton: Now the wronged woman herself... who in their right mind wants to be dragged back to Whitewater... Clintonia, that bitchy, chaotic house party where American politics summered in the 1990s?... George Bush... has done pretty well... fighting hard for his own team.... Mr Bush's capacity to elicit frenzied support from [his] core constituency.... [L]iberals can't lay a finger on Mr Bush... they are just too damn angry... read, say, Paul Krugman's columns in the New York Times and you are often left worrying less about the commander-in-chief than about the columnist-in-a-tizz.... Mr Bush: self-discipline.... There has been a palpable change in the White House's productivity: nobody was better at analysing a problem late into the night than Mr Clinton; but Mr Bush actually gets things done...

It is amusing that the Economist is unable to stammer out a proper apology for all this bulls---, like:

Notice to readers. This week's column about how the Republicans are in danger of becoming a regionalized permanent minority renders many of our earlier columns inoperative. They were all bulls---. We knew it or ought to have known it at the time. Readers wishing to apply to refunds should write to we_apologize_and_eat_crow@economist.com.

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