Dear Paul Krugman:
You had to know what effect your pot-stirring yesterday would have on the painful Democratic debate going on between Clinton and Obama supporters, over which candidate should be our nominee.
Shame on you for singling out one side's support as nothing more than a cult following. And for likening our Democratic debate -- because let me assure you, sir, that this is a two-sided affair -- to something akin to Nixon-style "politics of slander and scare." This last bit is particularly ironic, as it is your column, Mr. Krugman, which you are wielding to launch the very kind of "slander and scare" of which you accuse Obama supporters.
Various factions on both sides of this Clinton/Obama divide are extremely hopped up about their candidate. Consider this fact, however: You have all but publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, probably because you prefer her health care plan -- and this is your right, and I respect your efforts to make your views known. But as a columnist for the Times, you no doubt hear from people who disagree with you all the time, and I would venture to say that these responses are not always politely written.
It stands to reason that you cannot be, as you admitted yesterday, "even-handed" about the Clinton/Obama divide at this point, because most the angry mail you get is generated because you have all but endorsed Clinton. It's not like the Clinton loyalists are going to scream about how much they agree with you. So, most of the "venom" you are subjected to may come from Obama supporters. But there is plenty of "venom" coming from Clinton supporters.
Let me tell you about an email list I am on. There are perhaps 500 people on this list, and it's comprised of progressive and Democratic activists, bloggers, journalists, campaign staffers and others who are actively and passionately interested in who the Democratic nominee will be. This list has basically been crippled by vitriol in the past week -- and in particular after your column yesterday -- because of anger on both sides of this divide.
Contrary to your column yesterday, I find that while the anger is real on both sides, it is the Clinton supporters who are practicing the politics of slander and fear. When those of us who support Obama refuse to be won over by their policy-based arguments in favor of Clinton, they slip into the taunts.
According to them, we "follow St. Obama blindly," and we are weak-minded and falling prey to a "cult of personality." I have never once seen an Obama supporter attack a Clinton supporter with such base attacks.
And as for your claim that Obama supporters are "happy" about how "some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons... as proof of evil intent," and that you cast us into the same lot with MSNBC's David Schuster's sexist comment about Chelsea Clinton being "pimped out" is a sorry conflation of issues. One that is beneath your abilities, sir.
First, are you blaming the Obama Campaign, or its supporters, or the media for this "cult of personality"? Your exact words were: "I'm not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." And then the rest of your column proceeds to cite examples of media wrong-doing, and your perception of Obama supporter "venom." You include not one example of the campaign's supposed culpability.
Second, I know of many people who have decided to support Obama who were disgusted with some of the sexist media coverage of Clinton earlier in the primary season. Many of us signed petitions to have MSNBC's Chris Matthews apologize, for example. The great majority of Obama supporters take no joy from seeing either candidate treated unfairly by the media.
Is it true that the great majority of Clinton supporters are gleeful about the success of your "cult of personality" meme against Obama? All Democrats should be fighting against any frames that damage our candidates. This one of yours is quite damaging. It's akin to what was done to Howard Dean in 2004, and to George McGovern in 1972. Is this the kind of blow you were intending?
And, your strange allusion to President Bush's "Operation Flight Suit" is, quite simply, dumb-founding. Please name one example of an action taken by Senator Obama that is anyhow akin to that ridiculous display.
What is your column from yesterday, if not a case-study in the "politics of slander and scare?" You are slandering the candidate, and Obama supporters, suggesting that we have fallen prey to some kind of cult mentality. That is a powerful and scary word, Mr. Krugman, and you knew just what you were doing when you used it.
I can only speak for myself on this last point. But over the past few years, I had a hand in publishing some of the most popular progressive books that made it into the public debate. I have been steeped in the issues and the fight to bring a Democrat to office for a long time now. My support of Obama is based on my studied, measured -- and yes, hopeful -- belief that he is the best candidate for this moment in our nation's history. I resent your suggestion that my informed choice has been made because I am under a cult-like influence.
If Obama does not win the nomination, like the majority of Obama supporters, I will be disappointed, but I will vote for Hillary Clinton. But you're sure not making that decision any easier.
If you would, in fact, like to "see more hopeful moments" in this presidential campaign, please stop using your Times column to contribute your own brand of venom to the debate. Do you want to turn this into another 1968?
I say: Not. This. Time.
Please apologize, and then let's all move on.