By David Weigel
Early on Sunday morning, as the rest of NYTimes.com was turned over to 9/11 anniversary, Paul Krugman vented his spleen. Years of columns were condensed into a few pithy lines.
“What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful,” he wrote. “The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.”
These were sentiments he’d expressed before, but he knew they’d set people off. He turned off the comment section. “I didn’t have time to sift through the predictable vast pile of obscene and threatening stuff looking for the rare entries that were fit to print,” Krugman says.
So the reaction occurred away from the blog, on Twitter and in other columns. Jennifer Rubin accused him of “hatred and contempt for his countrymen.” Donald Rumsfeld picked up the essential tool of the angry op-ed reader:
On a day when everyone else was flashing back to 9/11/2001, I was flashing back to the days and months later, when criticism of the Bush administration returned, and the practioners of it became, briefly, Emmanuel Goldsteins. Remember Susan Sontag? Remember the Dixie Chicks? Remember the campaign to “revoke the Oscar” from Michael Moore?
There hasn’t been much criticism of the substance of Krugman’s remarks; denying that 9/11 and counterterrorism strategy became “wedge issues” is denying a few years of political history. The criticism is of Krugman for expressing it. He brushes the criticism right off.
“I’m not saying anything in that post that I wasn’t saying back in 2002, when people like him were riding high,” says Krugman. “And isn’t Rumsfeld ‘sweep everything up, related and not’ the poster child for 9/11 exploitation?”
If you’ve forgotten the “sweep everything up” reference, there’s a refresher here.