More Krugman on Obama

Paul Krugman had a another column yesterday on Barack Obama and his big table approach to governance. Like his other recent columns on Obama, this one is critical.

Krugman starts by comparing the rhetoric from Obama and Edwards,

At one extreme, Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so “bitter and partisan,” and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a “different kind of politics.”

At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.

I haven’t finished Krugman’s new book The Conscience of a Liberal yet, but his central premise is that political partisanship (from the right) precedes growing income inequalities, which is different from what his belief was before he started researching his book. It is from this premise, that he believes a more equitable America requires increased partisanship from liberals and progressives. Knowing this, it will help to explain his concerns with Obama’s style.

Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve.


The argument began during the Democratic debate, when the moderator — Carolyn Washburn, the editor of The Des Moines Register — suggested that Mr. Edwards shouldn’t be so harsh on the wealthy and special interests, because “the same groups are often responsible for getting things done in Washington.”

Mr. Edwards replied, “Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen.”

Not only are they not going to voluntarily give up their power, they are going to continue to fight to increase their power. Or maybe fight is the wrong description, more like bribe and influence congress and the president.

This was pretty clearly a swipe at Mr. Obama, who has repeatedly said that health reform should be negotiated at a “big table” that would include insurance companies and drug companies.

On Saturday Mr. Obama responded, this time criticizing Mr. Edwards by name. He declared that “We want to reduce the power of drug companies and insurance companies and so forth, but the notion that they will have no say-so at all in anything is just not realistic.”

Hmm. Do Obama supporters who celebrate his hoped-for ability to bring us together realize that “us” includes the insurance and drug lobbies?

O.K., more seriously, it’s actually Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.

As I wrote in another post highlighting Krugman’s criticism of Obama on Social Security and Health Care, I favor Edwards as the Democratic nominee. Apparently I am not alone in this, according to an article by Joshua Holland (writes great stuff) at Alternet, Edwards would do better than Obama or Clinton in any match up against the top potential Republican nominees.

According to the New York Times/CBS News poll taken Dec. 5-9 (PDF), 63 percent of likely voters believe Hillary Clinton “has the best chance of winning in November” — the dreaded “electability” question that haunts candidates like Dennis Kucinich. Following Clinton, 14 percent thought Barack Obama was the best equipped to take on the GOP, and just one in ten gave the nod to John Edwards. Of the rest of the field, only New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson got even a single percentage point.

Despite having the highest “unfavorable” numbers of all the top candidates in both parties, Americans think Clinton is the most electable. Go figure.

But according to the CNN poll (PDF) taken Dec. 6-9, a starkly different picture emerges when voters are asked about head-to-head match-ups in November; when the leading Dems are pitted against the top Republicans, it’s John Edwards — not Clinton and not Obama — who simply wipes the floor with the whole GOP field. “Edwards is the only Democrat who beats all four Republicans,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director, “and McCain is the only Republican who beats any of the three Democrats.”

If you like graphics, much prettier than columns of numbers, then this one from the article credited to creator Atlantic’s Matt Yglesias shows how Edwards is polling better in head to head match ups than Obama or Clinton


So it looks like I might have good instincts in liking Edwards.



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