On April 27, 2004, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman asserted that Dick Cheney’s desire to deny access to details about his energy task force meetings was tantamount to a defense of “elected dictatorship.” In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling supporting Cheney’s position by a 7-2 margin, it is worth recalling Krugman’s extraordinary words:
Mr. Cheney’s determination to keep his secrets probably reflects more than an effort to avoid bad publicity. It’s also a matter of principle, based on the administration’s deep belief that it has the right to act as it pleases, and that the public has no right to know what it’s doing.
As Linda Greenhouse recently pointed out in The New York Times, the legal arguments the administration is making for the secrecy of the energy task force are ”strikingly similar” to those it makes for its right to detain, without trial, anyone it deems an enemy combatant. In both cases, as Ms. Greenhouse puts it, the administration has put forward ”a vision of presidential power . . . as far-reaching as any the court has seen.”
That same vision is apparent in many other actions. Just to mention one: we learn from Bob Woodward that the administration diverted funds earmarked for Afghanistan to preparations for an invasion of Iraq without asking or even notifying Congress.
What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes, and isn’t obliged to consult or inform either Congress or the public.
Krugman may be an outstanding academic economist but if he buys Greenhouse’s assertion that Cheney’s position amounts to “a vision of presidential power . . . as far-reaching as any the court has seen,” then he needs to sit in on a few introductory history classes.
On a related note, anyone notice how defensive Krugman gets when he has to issue a correction? From his April 6, 2004, column:
A Yawngate update: CNN called me to insist that despite what it first said, the administration really, truly wasn’t responsible for the network’s claim that David Letterman’s embarrassing video of a Bush speech was a fake. I still don’t understand why the network didn’t deny White House involvement until it retracted the charge. But the main point of Friday’s column was to highlight the way CNN facilitated crude administration smears of Richard Clarke.
And from today’s column:
Speaking of numbers: in 1980, middle-income families with children paid 8.7 percent of their income in income taxes, not 8.2 percent, as I reported on June 8. But it’s still true that their combined income and payroll taxes rose under Ronald Reagan.
More on today’s Krugman correction at Donald Luskin’s site.
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