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"Another Times' columnist who seems to escape scrutiny altogether is Bob Herbert, who's at least as liberal as Krugman. I don't know why that is."

Because he doesn't use numbers?

Because he isn't a professor? (that I know of)

Because he is black? (I think)

Because he writes from the heart?


Because nobody reads him (regrettably).

Chris Meserole

Herbert's style is far more anecdotal than Krugman's. In that regard, verifying Herbert often presents much the same difficulty as verifying Safire.

But the bigger point is that Herbert and Krugman are playing entirely different games. As AE in part suggests -- "because he writes from the heart" -- Herbert typically writes via an emotive rather than analytic mode.

By contrast, Krugman is typically analytic, probably the most so among all the columnists for the Times. Consequently, he also receives the most scrutiny: you cannot seek to disprove an emotional state, but you can seek to disprove the premise, process, and conclusion of analysis.

That's why the vulture's come flocking for Krugman, and why he deserves commendation for so consistently opening himself to attack.

angry moderate

Because nobody reads him (understandably).

Mrs. Coulter

Herbert doesn't get the challenges Krugman does because he writes as a cultural critic, rather than as a representative of an alleged science. Herbert's essays are narrative and discursive, and thus apply a different evidentiary standard.

Plus no one reads him. :-P

Matthew Yglesias

Because nobody reads him. When was the last time you read a Bob Herbert column? I think my last one was in those heady post-9/11 days when I was reading everything, though you may need to reach all the way back to the nineties.


Good post Mark but there is a poor analogy here:

"Imagine, by analogy, a CBS executive saying that he wanted to say something about the National Guard documents, but Dan Rather had yelled at him over something else, so he decided not to."

I wouldn't be shocked by that at all.

Thomas Nephew

I think one other NYT person got as much as instant critical analysis as Krugman -- and that was Okrent.

And generally more deservedly. Okrent's outing of a angry e-mailer's name was beyond the pale, and he's been less than energetic about pursuing stories within the Times. I think the 'ombudsman' position that demands a thick skin, and Okrent found he didn't have one. It also demands, or should, a combative temperament towards the _newspaper_, not the readers. I believe Okrent found he didn't have that either.

Michael J.W. Stickings

He may "write from the heart," and I appreciate his good intentions, but his blandness sticks out like a Democrat in Crawford, Texas.

I'm sure you've all seen Timothy Noah's Times columnist allocation game at Slate, based on the upcoming TimesSelect service? If not, click here.

The results (click here) weren't friendly to Herbert, who ended up with an average of just $1.42, just three cents ahead of Brooks (who was likely punished for being a conservative -- Tierney, justifiably, was last at $0.31.

Krugman was first, by the way, at $6.90, well ahead of Friedman, Rich, and Dowd (Kristof was a distant fifth).

I realize it's just a game, but it speaks in a way to what Mark is saying. Krugman is an incredibly powerful columnist -- not just because he's a liberal economist who blows the lid off of supply-side nonsense, but because he works with numbers. Despite all the "values" talk in America, we still live in an age of social science, with its Weberian fact/value distinction and almost universal recognition that numbers are true. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers may never get along, but 2 + 2 always = 4. Krugman's got the numbers on his side, but that means that the only way to bring him down is to find errors in his arithmetic or intentional miscalculations.

Here's my point, I suppose. Although my favourite Times columnist is Frank Rich, his weekly cultural analyses are far less of a threat to his opponents than Krugman's economic analyses. We may think that Rich is right about a lot of things (and he's very good at exposing hypocrisy in the Bush Administration), but he lives in the world of values -- and, postmoderns that we have become, it is virtually impossible to determine conclusively that one value is simply right and another simply wrong. But Krugman can show that his opponents are simply wrong by pointing to the numbers, the facts. QED.

By the way, I hesitate to mention my own blog (The Reaction) here, given my respect for The Decembrist, but if any of you would care for additional commentary on the Times columnists, see here and here. Thanks.

global yokel

I read Bob Herbert regularly. The guy has done heroic work, has managed to shine the NYT spotlight on all sorts of social injustice, and consequently he gets results. If you guys aren't reading him you have no one else to blame.


Any idea why Judith Miller still has her job?

Joel W

frankly, the black thing is two fold: I don't think anybody reads him because he is black, and nobody attacks him because he is black. Sad But True.


I'm surprised to hear that no one reads Bob Herbert, but then I've only read The Times about a year and I'm not bored with anyone yet (except Tierney -- and that happened instantly). I enjoy Herbert a lot. And I was glad to find out he's black, and doesn't concentrate on black issues the way all the black columnists my local newspaper picks up do. BookTV has been challenged for not having more black writers on, but Connie defended herself by saying that blacks always write on one subject: blacks.

Is it possible the truth of "no one reads Herbert" refers only to people like bloggers and readers of blogs, people who are REALLY into politics, and want harder hitting columns/news?

Ben P

Speaking of Safire, you mention the Atta in Prague thing, but the one that kills me - and the other big time culprit here is Chris Hitchens - that Safire continually recycled is the claim that because Zarqawi was in Iraq before the invasion, that this "proves" Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda. What Safire (and Hitchens) don't mention, however, is that Zarqawi's camp was in the Kurdish autonomous zone that was also a part of the US controlled no fly zone, over which Saddam Hussein had had no control since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. Conceivably, one could argue it was the Kurds - not Saddam - who should be attacked by this logic Indeed, the US could have conceivably taken out Zarqawi in the run up to the war, and I suspect they chose not to because it would have disrupted the effort to launch the invasion Bush wanted to launch.

Bruce Webb

I read Herbert, but fundamentally he is no danger to the central identity of the Republican party, they already have crafted an easy response to anyone who points out systematic racial inequality "Get a job". Yeah its cheap, but it works.

Krugman on the other hand is about to deal a death blow to Privatization. Republicans have hated Social Security since Day One (don't believe me, pick up any novel by Ayn Rand) and have dreamed of killing it for 70 years. That dream is now being snatched out of their hands, no longer from think tanks like Baker's CEPR or Sawicky's EPI, but right from the editorial page of the NYT.

There is now a frenetic and frantic attempt to demonize Paul Krugman, but it won't work. Each and every number he is using is coming from the Social Security: Annual Reports and the economic clock is ticking.

Krugman is just the public face of the Solvency battle. That battle actually ended on March 23, 2005 with the release of the 2005 Report. The numbers are devastating for Privatizers, no body believes the economy will perform down to the levels required for the standard Intermediate Cost projection. Privatizers know this full well and are making a last ditch attempt to kill the messenger.


Armando, 6/3/05, at DailyKos on Matt Miller's recent column:

"I got bad news for Miller. The "beardstrokers," with few exceptions (Herbert, Krugman) have not demanded the truth. Miller has written on social security and instead of demanding truth from the Bush Administration he chose to chastise Democrats for not being open to discussion."

Some people read Herbert.

Kenneth Fair

James Wolcott nails it: Krugman is resented because his popularity makes him less subject to the institutional pressures that other Times columnists are.

But it has less to do, I think, with Krugman success as a columnist than his success outside the world of punditry. At heart, Krugman is not interested in playing the game - being part of the NY-DC party circuit, having access, being the guy "in the know," spreading the gossip, and so on. Krugman doesn't care about become a success as a pundit because he's already an enormous success at his chosen field, economics. He doesn't need the good word of the "opinion-makers." And this gives Krugman immense power, because he can call it as he sees it, without feeling any need to tone down his rhetoric.

This also explains Krugman's reaction to a challenge from a non-economist like Okrent on his use of data. Pundits use data loosely, and nobody seems to care that they do so, because the next week, they're on to another topic. (Whether this is good is another question.) But to an academic like Krugman, Okrent's statement was a professional insult. Academics can disagree on methods and conclusions, but you don't get to the level of Krugman's stature - or at least, you don't keep that stature for long - if you fudge your data.


I just heard Bob Herbert interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio. The host asked him about being attacked for being a liberal. He said he was attacked a lot 2-3 years ago, but the pendulum has changed back to support of liberal values.


Krugman's the man! Even on non-economic issues of foreign policy he asks the right questions and makes sense.

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