Andrew Sullivan posted some thoughts — titled “Pwning Krugman” — on the above video:
Still, Scarborough came prepared and clearly prevailed over a Nobel laureate in economics. Not bad for a hack. And he’s dead right about Krugman’s contempt for those with whom he disagrees. It actually weakens his case unnecessarily. And I have to say that over the past five years, I think Krugman has been more right than wrong.
Is Sullivan watching the same video I am? Scarborough not only misrepresented the substance of Krugman’s critique (multiple times, via multiple intentional misreadings of Krugman’s older books), but he seems to have done this deliberately. If he “pwned” Krugman, it’s only in the sense that a Nobel Prize-winning economist doesn’t spend most of his time learning to look good while being consistently wrong on TV. (I should know this: I just saw Krugman speak at a TEDx event a few weeks ago, and he wasn’t any more impressive as a speaker from fifteen feet away as he is on TV.)
What Krugman (oddly enough) didn’t emphasize sufficiently in his exchange with Scarborough is that both of the excerpts from his books came from well before the financial crisis era: 1997 and 2005. Instead, he rather admirably admitted that he had “learned a few things” since that time. This is certainly the case — and, it might be said, contrasts with Sullivan’s depiction of “Krugman’s contempt for those with whom he disagrees.”
(Side note: The New Yorker ran a fascinating profile of Krugman and his wife, the economist Robin Wells, in March 2010. One of the great nuggets from that piece was the revelation that it is Wells, and not Krugman, who tends to write with more vitriol: “On the rare occasion when they disagree about something, she will be the one urging him to be more outraged or recalcitrant.”)
But back to the Krugman/Scarborough debate. In both of the Krugman quotes that Scarborough cites, the crisis was years away. (In the case of the first quote, it was an entire decade away.) As Krugman tried to explain, he wrote about the dangers of the deficit back then precisely because the economy was stronger during those periods. But Scarborough consistently ignored the fact that Krugman has, time and time again, emphasized the foolishness of tackling the deficit during a recovery from a recession. To simply ignore this central qualification of Krugman’s deficit critique is to ignore the entire argument. “Pwning” Krugman? Not in the least.
(UPDATE — 10:51 AM EST 3/6/2013): I’m watching the full debate now. Krugman actually did a substantively much better job of making his point clear — that deficit reduction should be contingent upon a healthier economy — than he did in the brief clip shown above. (He continued to stumble when Scarborough brought up his previous quotes, despite the fact that these words were written during healthier economic times.) Indeed, he seems to have performed much better in the full debate than he even did in that short clip.
One person who agrees with Andrew Sullivan’s depiction of the “pwnage?” Well, Paul Krugman (kinda):
Well, we’ll see how it comes out after editing, but I feel that I just had my Denver debate moment: I was tired, cranky, and unready for the blizzard of misleading factoids and diversionary stuff (In 1997 you said that the aging population was a big problem! When Social Security was founded life expectancy was only 62!) Oh, and I wasn’t prepared for Joe Scarborough’s slipperiness about what he actually advocates (he’s for more spending in the near term? Who knew?)