It will surprise no one to learn that former Enron adviser Paul Krugman is unfavorably disposed toward the Republicans seeking the presidency. In a New York Times column after last week’s debate, he denounced their “fantasy economics”—except that he credited Donald Trump with “talking sense.” (Pro-Trump or Trump-curious readers, take note.) The discussion of foreign policy, he opined, “was practically demented,” although he allows that Rand Paul “seemed remotely sensible.”
To paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he’s entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Krugman also claims that “some” of the candidates “seem willing to advance their ambitions with outright lies.” His examples turn out to be factitious. They demonstrate how the journalistic genre known as the “fact check” can promote dishonest partisanship.
Example No. 1: “Chris Christie asserted, as he did in the first G.O.P. debate, that he was named U.S. attorney the day before 9/11. It’s still not true: His selection for the position wasn’t even announced until December.”
To support this claim, Krugman includes a link to an Aug. 7 piece by PolitiFact New Hampshire by Nick Reid of the Concord Monitor. In the first debate, Christie said: “I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on Sept. 10, 2001.” According to Reid, “the statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate the statement Mostly False.”
To wit: Christie was formally nominated in early December, and the Senate confirmed the nomination Dec. 20. But contrary to what Krugman implies, he didn’t just pull the Sept. 10 date out of a hat. As Reid notes (but Krugman ignores):
[Christie campaign spokesman Samantha] Smith pointed to an article in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper from Sept. 11, 2001, which read: “President Bush nominated former Morris County freeholder Christopher Christie as the state’s next U.S. attorney yesterday.”
It continues: “. . . the White House notified Christie that he is the President’s choice and that extensive background checks on his qualifications would begin immediately.”
“Christie is a Republican, so you know the claim is still rated Mostly False,” quips blogger Tom Maguire. That may be unfair; perhaps Reid simply doesn’t like Christie, or, more charitably, maybe he’s just a stickler about legalisms. “Appointment” is a constitutional term of art that encompasses both nomination and Senate confirmation.