In the aftermath of the Tomahawks, Krugman gets it right

Prolineserver / Wikimedia Commons krugman...
Prolineserver / Wikimedia Commons

He has a column today titled Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy.

He begins by reminding us of the Carrier deal last fall, taking us through both the publicity and the reality, which wasn’t much.  He asks whether there was any follow-up by Trump demonstrating any kind of real jobs policy, any actions taken by Trump to make a real and permanent difference, and answers his own question by writing

So far, he hasn’t; there isn’t even the vague outline of a real Trumpist jobs policy. And corporations and investors seem to have decided that the Carrier deal was all show, no substance, that for all his protectionist rhetoric Mr. Trump is a paper tiger in practice.

He uses this to pivot to more contemporaneous events in the next paragraph:

In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.

The real issue for Krugman is not so much what Trump does,but how the press (and pundits) react.

Krugman revisits the events in Syria, and warns us that the end result of the attack may be to strengthen the Assad regime.

He reminds us that just before the chemical weapons attacks the Trump administration had signalled a lack of interest in things internal to Syria (except we might note Trump’s interest in using Assad to fight Isis). 

Krugman writes

What changed? The images of poison-gas victims were horrible, but Syria has been an incredible horror story for years. Is Mr. Trump making life-and-death national security decisions based on TV coverage?

On this point I suggest reading Charles M. Blow this morning, whose column War as a Political Weapon reminds us that the horrors of Syria were evident long before the most recent gas attack,and that people have been dying horribly for years.

But I am focusing on Krugman this morning.

In the two paragraphs that follow what I just quoted, Krugman lays out the key point:

One thing is certain: The media reaction to the Syria strike showed that many pundits and news organizations have learned nothing from past failures.

Mr. Trump may like to claim that the media are biased against him, but the truth is that they’ve bent over backward in his favor. They want to seem balanced, even when there is no balance; they have been desperate for excuses to ignore the dubious circumstances of his election and his erratic behavior in office, and start treating him as a normal president.

Reflect on that.  This was not the first time various talking heads said Trump became Presidential.  We saw that the first time he read off a teleprompter without drooling on himself. 

And Krugman is right — there is no balance, Trump’s election remains dubious, his behavior is erratic at best and destructive far too often either in his actions or those taken by key figures in his administration.

To which we should add the personal and familial corruption being shown is beyond comprehension, and should be a constant focus of media attention.

Krugman reminds us that the Trump administration will learn from the press reaction, that it

 now knows that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures by bombing someone.

Krugman then close with two paragraphs that I think lay out the case in an inarguable fashion:

So here’s a hint: Real leadership means devising and carrying out sustained policies that make the world a better place. Publicity stunts may generate a few days of favorable media coverage, but they end up making America weaker, not stronger, because they show the world that we have a government that can’t follow through.

And has anyone seen a sign, any sign, that Mr. Trump is ready to provide real leadership in that sense? I haven’t.

Nor have I.

What I have seen is that regardless of what actions or words for which the media and unfortunately some Democrats may choose to lavish praise on Trump,the only consistencies Trump has shown is that what really matters to him is yet another trip to an eponymously branded property and another round of golf.  And making money for himself and his family.

Insofar as the press normalizes this, our democratic republic is withering away.

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