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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, June 09, 2003

Who's Dowdifying Whom?

Don Luskin sends us to Dr. A of the puzzling perma-links (look for June 6, 2003 9:44am), a new righty econoblogger. How many rightys are out there blogging, anyway? Not Enough! And can there ever be enough Krugman-bashing? Of course not! As a confession of my own personal problems, I have no doubt that I could find something to criticize about the way Prof. Krugman ties his shoes (and if he wears those annoying loafers, fuggedaboutit). Hey, did I just take a First Step?

That said, we must maintain standards. Don Luskin has pointed out a "faux quote" which he claims Prof. Krugman uses out of context; I think it stands up. Videotape, sans links:

"Most media attention has focused on the child tax credit that wasn't. As in 2001, the administration softened the profile of a tax cut mainly aimed at the wealthy by including a credit for families with children. But at the last minute, a change in wording deprived 12 million children of some or all of that tax credit. 'There are a lot of things that are more important than that,' declared Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. (Maybe he was thinking of the 'Hummer deduction,' which stayed in the bill: business owners may now deduct up to $100,000 for the cost of a vehicle, as long as it weighs at least 6,000 pounds.)"

But Dr. A found Tom DeLay's entire statement in this June 4 story in USA Today. And just as was the case with Krugman's quote from Grover Norquist in today's column, the meaning is precisely the opposite of the impression that Krugman gives.

''There are a lot of other things that are more important than that,'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said of addressing low-income families. ''If it is a part of a bigger bill . . . and can get us some votes over in the Senate, then I'm more than open to it.''

Dr. A: "Doesn't this exclusion of the second part of the quote completely change its meaning? Am I missing something here?" If you agree with Dr. A, drop a note to retrace@nytimes.com.

First of all, even as it is presented I disagree. It is not a contradiction to believe something is unimportant, but be willing to compromise on it. But maybe we can find a more complete quotation at Newsday:

DeLay said he would not permit legislation making the working poor eligible for the expanded child-care tax credit to come to the House as a separate bill. The tax cut law increased the child-care tax credit to $1,000 from $600 per child.

"They had their chance," DeLay said, referring to legislators who worked on the law. "There's a lot of other things that are more important than that. To me it's a little difficult to give tax relief to people who don't pay income taxes".

Hmm, that doesn't soften my image of Mr. DeLay. Let's go back to the USA Today story which provided Dr. A's quote, and check the preceding paragraph for additional context:

The emergence of the issue poses the potential to embarrass Bush, whose original proposal provided no increased credit to those low-income families, and to his party, which wrote the new tax law. But it offers an opportunity to tax-cut advocates who want to piggyback other breaks for business and individuals on any bill that offers a remedy for low-income families.

''There are a lot of other things that are more important than that,'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas...

Again, this hardly suggests that Mr. DeLay is interested in adopting this tax credit, or that Prof. Krugman has unfairly depicted his position with a selective excerpt.

Look, the good news is, mistakes by Prof. Krugman are like streetcars - there will be another one along in a minute. However, this is not one of them.

UPDATE: Oh, bother. Now Don Luskin includes this "error" in an open letter to the Times.

UPDATE 2: Clang, clang! Here comes another streetcar!

In his Jube 10 column titled "Who's Accountable?", Prof. Krugman offers us this quote from Dick Cheney:

On March 16 Dick Cheney declared, "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Here is the transcript from Dick Cheney's interview with Tim Russert, who let this jaw-dropping announcement on the eve of war pass, as did our nation's press corps. And why? Because Russert had asked whether Cheney believed that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program. Cheney mis-spoke in his answer, and now we have this silly excerpt. By odd coincidence, we had actually posted on this very topic back on May 23. It is clear from the question and Cheney's subsequent comments that Cheney did not believe that Iraq had nuclear weapons.

Cheney]: ...We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons.

So, the Earnest Prof is literally correct - Cheney did say it. However, the quote is hopelessly unfair and misleading.

Flood the zone at : retrace.nytimes.com

And I have a hard time believing that this is a proper Second Step - I have a new post rehasing this faux quote, and three others.

UPDATE AGAIN: A rare foray into the substance of the debate.

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