So much for respectful commemoration of a tragedy. Times columnist Paul Krugman is getting a lot of heat for scraping for political points in a nytimes.com blog post on Sunday, the morning of the 10th anniversary of September 11 attacks - 'The Years of Shame,' in which he claimed 'Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror.' Here's the post, in full, including Krugman's brave refusal to allow dissenters to comment on his tasteless attempt to politicize 9-11.
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.
Krugman has been offensive on the subject of the World Trade Center's destruction before. Three days after the terrorist act, Krugman sketched out a execrable version of the discredited 'broken-window hypothesis' in his Times column, suggesting 'potentially...two favorable effects' from the 9-11 attacks, including a 'sudden' need for 'some new office buildings.'
It seems almost in bad taste to talk about dollars and cents after an act of mass murder. Nonetheless, we must ask about the economic aftershocks from Tuesday's horror.
These aftershocks need not be major. Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack - like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression - could even do some economic good. But there are already ominous indications that some will see this tragedy not as an occasion for true national unity, but as an opportunity for political profiteering.
So the direct economic impact of the attacks will probably not be that bad. And there will, potentially, be two favorable effects.
First, the driving force behind the economic slowdown has been a plunge in business investment. Now, all of a sudden, we need some new office buildings. As I've already indicated, the destruction isn't big compared with the economy, but rebuilding will generate at least some increase in business spending.
And here's Krugman on January 29, 2002, downplaying the tragedy with his usual charmless 'humor':
It was a shocking event. With incredible speed, our perception of the world and of ourselves changed. It seemed that before we had lived in a kind of blind innocence, with no sense of the real dangers that lurked. Now we had experienced a rude awakening, which changed everything. No, I'm not talking about Sept. 11; I'm talking about the Enron scandal...The Enron scandal, on the other hand, clearly was about us. It told us things about ourselves that we probably should have known, but had managed not to see. I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.'