Sunday, December 18, 2016

Does Paul Krugman Really Want to Say Hillary Could Have Won Only by Keeping the Truth from Voters?

Paul Krugman says the election was hacked. He thinks Hillary Clinton would have won the presidency, but for two problems:

I’m talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I. . .
Does anyone really doubt that these factors moved swing-state ballots by at least 1 percent? If they did, they made the difference in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and therefore handed Mr. Trump the election, even though he received almost three million fewer total votes. Yes, the election was hacked.
I’m not sure Krugman has any hard statistical evidence to back this up, but he may very well be right. Is so, what is the implication? 

Krugman wants us to focus on the fact that the people who did the hacking were “bad guys.” Vladimir Putin is a devious authoritarian who arguably had no business trying to tilt the US election to his favored candidate. The FBI may really, as he says, “have  become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies” (although I find that a bit of an overstatement.) 

In my view, though, we should not allow the fact that “bad guys did it” to distract our focus from one key fact: What we learned from the Russian hackers and the FBI was true.

Yes, Clinton really did have a private email server. At a minimum, by her own admission, that showed bad judgement. It seems to have been at least a technical violation of State Department rules, even if the FBI was right to recommend against criminal prosecution. The server, and Clinton’s handling of the issue, really did turn off some voters.

Yes, the DNC, as revealed by Wikileaks, really did put its thumb on the scale in the primaries, contrary to its professed neutrality. Without the DNC’s covert aid—or with a more timely revelation of that aid—a fairer primary process might well have resulted in the nomination of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, Clinton’s paid speeches to banks really did contain material that could have swayed undecided primary voters, had it come out earlier in the year — her embrace of free trade and open borders, her offer to give Wall Street executives a larger role in crafting regulations, her casual willingness to say one thing behind closed doors and another in public.

None of this was false news. It was true news. I agree, it would have been more  palatable if it had been revealed by an earnest, all-American whistle blower within the DNC campaign rather than by the Russians, but that does not change the fact that the material released was true.

So here is my question: When Krugman says that Clinton would have won the presidency of only the election had not been hacked, isn’t that exactly the same as to say that she could have won only if she had been able to keep the truth safely under wraps?

If it is, then the blame for Clinton’s defeat lies with the message, no matter how much effort Krugman makes to shift our focus to the messengers.


  1. It was never about truth. It was about diversion, doubt, innuendo, slander, and yes, lies. The emails were just part of the sideshow.

  2. Good points about the leaks, but you glossed over the ill-timed (and violation of standard policy) FBI letter, which may have been the bigger issue given that the campaign had already absorbed the substance of the leaks. This turned out to be a race where Clinton's political "business as usual" behavior weighed more heavily on her than Trump's misogyny, acceptance of racist behavior and other normally disqualifying traits did on him.

  3. I don't know what Comey could have done differently. New Clinton emails were discovered, and they had to be reviewed. Trying to sit on them until after the election was not an option... it would have leaked, and that would have looked like a cover-up, which arguably would have hurt Clinton even more. The only lesson that can be drawn from the Comey letter is that nominating a candidate under FBI investigation is inherently dangerous and best avoided.