Times Watch wasn't the only outlet to pick up on David Brooks' stealth debunking of fellow columnist (and Republican-hater) Paul Krugman's accusation that racist motives led to Ronald Reagan's decision to begin his successful 1980 campaign for president in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers had been slain in 1964.
"There is an unwritten rule at the New York Times that forbids its op-ed columnists to attack one another in print. It's a holdover from a much stuffier era in the paper's history, and one can appreciate the sentiment behind it. An op-ed page whose columnists routinely denounced one another would create the impression of a newspaper more interested in arguing with itself than in engaging the world outside its walls. The example most frequently cited is the Village Voice of the 1960s and 1970s. A more contemporary example would be the blogosphere."
"I remembered that hard lesson while reading David Brooks' column, "History and Calumny," in the Nov. 9 New York Times . 'Today I'm going to write about a slur,' Brooks begins. Although this 'distortion' has been around for many years, it has 'spread like a weed over the past few months.' It is 'spread by people who, before making one of the most heinous charges imaginable, couldn't even take 10 minutes to look at the evidence.'
"People? Who are these people? Brooks doesn't say. He scrupulously cites three written sources - a 1980 Washington Post story by Lou Cannon; a June 2004 post by Kevin Drum on the Washington Monthly 's Web site; and an Oct. 2007 post by Bruce Bartlett on the Talking Points Memo Web site - but these are all accounts refuting the dastardly smear. These are the good guys . Who are the bad guys ? Calumny doesn't spread itself. What wascally wabbit is wesponsible? Brooks won't say.
"It's Paul Krugman."
Noah went on to cite recent columns by Krugman (and fellow liberal columnist Bob Herbert) that bring up the Philadelphia, Miss. Incident. Noah also noted Krugman's barely-veiled online response to Brooks.
"So there's a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon's Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that 'I believe in states' rights,' he didn't mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake."