Normally, I make a point of commenting on debates involving shame. Yet, when Paul Krugman offered his infamous rant about 9/11 commemorations ten days ago, I found myself speechless.
What Krugman said was so appalling that I did not know where to begin.
For the record, here is the full text of Krugman’s remarks. He posted them a few minutes before the beginning of the Ground Zero ceremony.
Krugman wrote: “The Years of Shame
“Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?
“Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.
“What happened after 9/11—and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not—was deeply shameful. 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.
“A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits—people who should have understood very well what was happening—took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
“The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.
“I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.”
What can you say, except that Krugman is either deranged or profoundly ignorant, or both.
Yesterday, William Kristol offered his own analysis of Krugman’s remarks. In so doing he has advanced the discussion. He suggests that Krugman himself is overwhelmed with his own feelings of shame and is projecting them on everyone else.
Correctly, Kristol focuses on what Krugman leaves out: “In the moral universe of most Americans, if one were to choose to declaim on the meaning of 9/11 on its tenth anniversary, even if one wanted to criticize subsequent policies of the American government, one would first pay tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of that day. But on September 11, and again on September 12, Krugman has nothing to say of the people killed in New York and Washington, of the passengers on Flight 93, the firefighters and rescue workers in New York City, the civilians and military at the Pentagon, or those who after 9/11 volunteered to serve their country in uniform or otherwise. He finds nothing to be proud of there.”
But why does Krugman find it odd that commemoration ceremonies would be subdued? Kristol calls him to account for this appalling comment.
Apparently, Krugman would have preferred that someone hijack the memorial service to cast shame on America. He seems to have no sense of decorum or decency.
Who, other than the Westboro Baptist Church takes offense at the solemnity of a funeral or a memorial service? Does Krugman believe that someone should have stood up to protest the memorial services for those who gave their live on September 11, 2011, the better to shame America?
To answer Krugman’s first question, Yes, it is just him. He is perhaps the only person who feels that 9/11 should be an occasion for shame.
In Krugman’s mental universe, there is only one version of the truth. As he sees it, the Bush administration hijacked 9/11 and used it to advance the nefarious neocon agenda.
Without saying it here, Krugman seems to blame the financial crisis and the failures of the Obama administration on the Bush administration response to 9/11. If so he would merely be echoing what is becoming conventional leftist dogma.
Krugman notwithstanding, the nation was united after 9/11. Congress voted for the Patriot Act with very, very few dissents. And the vast majority of Congress and Americans supported the war in Afghanistan.
True enough, that unity was shattered with the Iraq War, but one suspects that the leftists who turned against Iraq did so for reasons of political expediency.
Today, with a Democratic president, these same leftists have nothing bad to say about the Iraq War.
And if national unity was so important why did Paul Krugman and his ilk never miss an opportunity to trash the Bush administration. Isn’t Krugman one of the most divisive pundits on the scene today, distinguished only by his inability to give Republicans any credit for anything?
A master of the dialectic, Krugman wants to sharpen conflict and divide the nation, the better to produce violent confrontation.
He has no business reproving anyone for not producing national unity.
Like many other zealots and fanatics Krugman is more interesting in provoking strong emotional reactions than in adhering to the facts.
Whatever does he mean when he derides “fake heroes” like Bernard Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and George W. Bush? Did they use the 9/11 attacks “to cash in on the horror?”
Say what you will, George Bush did not use the days or the years following 9/11 to cash in. No one with a brain could possibly argue such a point.
If Kerik, Giuliani, and Bush were fake heroes, were there any real heroes? Perhaps Krugman subscribes to the Bill Maher School of Thought wherein Mohammed Atta and his band showed true courage by flying airplanes into buildings in order to murder innocent people.
So, you have to ask yourself: where is the shame? Is it, as Kristol suggests, a projection of the shame Krugman feels for being an American? Does Krugman feel ashamed that America fought back against terrorists and those who harbor them? Does he feel that it was wrong for America to defend itself? Or is Krugman ashamed of himself because he can’t even pretend to feel regret for those who lost their lives on 9/11?
We are assuming that Krugman knows what he is talking about. I am not so sure. I suspect that Krugman is most upset because America did not fall into a cycle of guilt and penance after 9/11.
Would he have wanted to see America enter into a round therapeutic soul-searching? Is he really saying that since we brought it on ourselves, we do not have any right to retaliate against other people? Thus, that we should be ashamed of ourselves for having done so.
Then again, Krugman may really be expressing the shame that a once proud newspaper must be feeling for having given over its editorial space to rabble like him.