The Smear Machine Cranks Up Again

SYNOPSIS: Paul Krugman responds to a very sleazy attack and the faux moral outrage by Don Luskin at NRO, regarding this 10.21.03 New York Times article about Mahathir Mohamed. Mr. Luskin should be ashamed of himself for exploiting the plight and oppression of the Jewish people in order to score cheap political points against Krugman. This smear of Krugman has nothing to do with defending Jews against anti-Semitism, and everything to do with trying to silence Krugman, who is by far the Bush administration's most effective and most important critic

Unbelievable The smear machine cranks up again. Theyíve done it to me before, they did it to Joseph Wilson, and now theyíre trying to do it again.

Now, if you believe these people, I am a paid agent of Mahathir, and condone anti-Semitism Ė maybe even the Holocaust. Too bad for these people that Iím Jewish Ė otherwise theyíd claim that I was anti-Semitic myself. Anyway, on one of my many visits to Israel I was told that most of my grandfatherís relatives died in Treblinka, so you can take your moral outrage someplace else.


What about those links to Mahathir? Read my Slate piece about my visit in 1999. I guess itís because of my close links to Mahathir that I wrote this:


ďMahathir can therefore claim a partial vindication for his economic heresies. That is not a political endorsement. Some right-wingers have claimed that anyone with a good word for Malaysian capital controls (me in particular) is also in effect an accomplice in the imprisonment, on what certainly sound like trumped-up charges, of Mahathir's former heir apparent Anwar Ibrahim--an advocate of more conventional policies. Well, I still remember the days when left-wingers used to claim that anyone with a good word for Chile's free-market reforms had bloodstained hands, because he was in effect endorsing Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The point is that economics is not a morality play. Sometimes bad men make good policies, and vice versa.Ē


Just in case you didnít get it: I called Mahathir a bad man, putting him in the same class as Pinochet (who was responsible for killing thousands of innocent people), and suggested that he framed his finance minister.

After I wrote that piece, I received an abusive letter from Mahathir; when I get back (Iím in London right now) Iíll see if I still have it. And no, in case you were wondering, I have never received any money from Mahathir or the Malaysian government. And my trip to Malaysia was no more a pleasure outing than Joseph Wilsonís trip to Niger; it was, as the Slate piece makes clear, an unpleasant professional duty.

Why didnít my NYT column mention my own role in the capital controls dispute? Because it would have seemed like tooting my own horn, and wasnít relevant to this article. Everyone who follows the subject knows the story; what would be the point of trying to hide something that everyone in the international economics business knows about, and that was the subject of articles in Slate, Fortune, and the NYT magazine?

By the way, one of the reasons I was so eager to find a way out of the Asian crisis was precisely my fear that a prolonged crisis might lead to widespread violence against the Chinese minority in southeast Asia. Like any Jew with a sense of history, I feel sympathy with all endangered minorities, and in 1998 the threat of pogroms against overseas Chinese (there are more Chinese in Indonesia than Jews in America) seemed very real.

They key thing to notice in this episode is the cynical way my attackers apply a double standard. Many people have written about the political motives that induce Moslem leaders to promote anti-Semitism; they arenít accused of condoning that anti-Semitism. For that matter, people who try to analyze the rise of Hitler arenít accused of being pro-Nazi when they try to understand his motives and those of his supporters. The reason Iím suddenly being accused of being soft on anti-Semitism has nothing to do with defending the Jews, and everything to do with trying, yet again, to silence my criticism of the Bush administration.

What a disgusting episode. And what a demonstration of the sleaziness of these people.

Originally published on the Official Paul Krugman Site, 10.24.03