Krugman v. Gupta


The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is unhappy with the Obama administration for offering the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent and former Clinton White House policy wonk. According to The Washington Post, Gupta "has also been offered a top post in the new White House Office of Health Reform, twin duties that could make him the most influential surgeon general in history." That Gupta seems eminently qualified and would be the highest-ranking Indian-American to serve in the federal government is of no consequence. Because the TV Doc, says Krugman, criticized (or as he writes, "mugged") Michael Moore on CNN by questioning some of the numbers in his lousy pro-Cuba film Sicko—and made two mistakes in doing so. Here is Krugman:

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he's uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It's sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less "serious" than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it's a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

There is no need to revisit whether or not Moore "got it right" in his film or in his counterattacks on Gupta and CNN, but it should be pointed out that our future surgeon general copped to two mistakes in his criticism of Sicko. One was the result of a transcription error ($251 was read as $25), the other was an incorrect affiliation. Even if Krugman is broadly correct, this is partisan hackery at its worst: Gupta—a proponent of single-payer health care, incidentally—should be held "accountable" for having criticized an incoherent film by a director with a history of abusing source material?

Also, I recommend a quick read of Gene Epstein's Econospinning, which convincingly demonstrates that Krugman (in his role as Times pundit) might want to consider holding himself "accountable" for his slippery use of source material.

I reviewed Sicko here.