October 22, 2003,
Anti-Semitism with a purpose."
Sounds like a sick play on a Madison Avenue advertising slogan. But it's no joke. It was a subhead attached to Paul Krugman's Tuesday column for the New York Times. In it he rationalized the violently anti-Semitic remarks by Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as being symptoms of the failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy.
The column has already generated a storm of protest on the letters page of the Times, on the website of the Anti-Defamation League, and on the websites of Krugman Truth Squad members, new and old (Musil, Hogberg, Taranto, Antler, Hinderaker, Henke, DiBenedetto, Wrightson, and Sullivan).
But the storm is just getting started. So far no one has revealed the ties between Krugman and Mahathir, or pointed out how Krugman appears to have been personally complicit in Mahathir's anti-Semitism.
First, a quick recap of the column in question. Krugman began by quoting Mahathir's statement last week that "The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." Krugman immediately acknowledged the White House's denouncement of Mahathir's statement, and agreed that "Indeed, those remarks were inexcusable."
Inexcusable? Apparently not Krugman spent the rest of the column excusing them. Krugman wrote that Mahathir's anti-Semitic statement was
calculated for Mr. Mahathir is a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish. ... [Mahathir] is in many ways about as forward-looking a Muslim leader as we're likely to find. ... So what's with the anti-Semitism? Almost surely it's part of Mr. Mahathir's domestic balancing act, something I learned about the last time he talked like this, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. ... When times are tough, Mr. Mahathir ... throws the Muslim majority rhetorical red meat. ... Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech ...Krugman ignored the reality that Mahathir has, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a "long record of anti-Semitism and belief in a Jewish conspiracy to bring about the downfall of Malaysia." And in his most recent column he never cited one word of Mahathir's that would suggest he is even cognizant of U.S. policy. Yet he concluded that Mahathir's statement is motivated by America's "war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon."
Now let's dig a little deeper. Krugman said that Mahathir's anti-Semitism was "something I learned about the last time he talked like this, during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98." He elaborated that "At that time ... he loudly blamed machinations by Western speculators, and imposed temporary controls on the outflow of capital a step denounced by all but a handful of Western economists. As it turned out, his economic strategy was right ... "
There is a small deception here that will prove to be very significant. As Musil pointed out, Krugman failed to disclose that he himself was first and foremost among that "handful of Western economists." Remarkable, since it is not usual for Krugman to miss an opportunity to pat himself on the back.
But why isn't Krugman taking credit for the splash he made in September 1998, when he was still the enfant terrible of international trade theory? At that time, in his September 1998 article for Fortune titled "Saving Asia: It's Time to Get Radical," he called for emergency currency controls. Shortly after its publication, Mahathir implemented Krugman's "radical" recommendations. In a Slate article a year later, Krugman bragged that this had become known as the "Krugman-Mahathir strategy." Why the silence now?
Perhaps Krugman is ashamed of some of things he did and said back then as, it appears, he should be.
In a November 8, 1998, article for yes The New York Times Magazine, Krugman dealt with, among other things, the impact of currency speculators in precipitating economic crises of the type that rocked Malaysia between 1997 and 1998. Once again he wrote of Mahathir's anti-Semitism but in 1998 he didn't refer to it as "inexcusable." He agreed with it:
When the occasional accusation of financial conspiracy is heard when, for example, Malaysia's Prime Minster blames his country's problems on the machinations of Jewish speculators the reaction of most observers is skepticism, even ridicule.And who's the example of the "evil speculator" given in the very next sentence? George Soros a Jew.
This is sickening. And it gets worse.
As per Krugman's Slate article, he publicly met with Mahathir in Malaysia a year later, and lent his prestige as a prominent international economist to support a leader whom he knew to be anti-Semitic.
I agreed to spend a day including a 90-minute "dialogue" with the prime minister at the Palace of the Golden Horses, a vaguely Las Vegas-style resort outside Kuala Lumpur. ... In our staged "dialogue" which was played out in semi-public, in front of a disturbingly obsequious audience of a hundred or so businessmen Mahathir continued to sound a minor-key version of the conspiracy theme, insisting that capital controls were necessary to protect small countries against the evil designs of big speculators.Krugman admitted in the Slate piece that he expected the Mahathir government "would try to use me politically to provide a veneer of respectability to a regime that has lately developed the habit of putting inconvenient people in jail." The closest thing to an excuse that he offered for agreeing to attend the meeting and by so doing, apparently participate in and endorse anti-Semitism and tyranny is "I didn't want to go to Malaysia. ... But sometimes an economist has to do what an economist has to do."
Especially, perhaps, when it involves an opportunity for Krugman to say "I told you so."
Back in the late '90s Krugman didn't conceal his involvement with Mahathir and speak of a "handful" of economists calling for currency controls. He put himself right out in front. In the 1999 Slate article he said that he was "the only high-profile economist to advocate the economic heresy that Malaysia had put into practice." Being adulated by Mahathir, before an obsequious audience, must have been too big an ego-trip to turn down.
And who paid for Krugman's airfare? His hotel? His meals? Were there perks involved? Was there an honorarium? Was he on Mahathir's "advisory board"? According to the local press, Krugman was also "speaking at a business conference" at the same time. Was it sponsored wholly or in part by the Malaysian government? Was there an honorarium for that? If the answer to any of these is "yes," Krugman should have said so in yesterday's column.
But the real issue here is that Krugman has apparently had a long-term tolerance for anti-Semitism, at least when it comes to helping out Malaysia's Mahathir. Will this finally be the issue that forces the New York Times to rein in America's most dangerous liberal pundit?