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When all you’ve got are metaphors

Paul Krugman is wrong:

Dean Baker has exactly the right metaphor for journalists asking the really dumb “are you better off” question:

Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, “is the house in better shape than when you got here?”

Yes, that would be a really ridiculous question.

A serious reporter asks the fire chief if he had brought a large enough crew, if they enough hoses, if the water pressure was sufficient. That might require some minimal knowledge of how to put out fires.

Obama came to office in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The question should be how well he dealt with that crisis — and in particular whether the man seeking to replace him would have done better.

I am by no means a Ronald Reagan fan. But, WOW — his question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is exactly the right question to ask whenever a president runs for reelection. I just wish Ted Kennedy had thought to ask it so plainly during his primary run.  It might have saved us all a lot of grief.  Or maybe not. So. Not “really dumb,” not even “dumb” — of course there are other questions to ask but I think we can handle that.

If you can’t run on your record then all you’ve got are metaphors

But, the “dumb” crack is only one weakness in Krugman’s argument. The real weakness is that he’s following what is obviously a Democratic Party Talking Point and discussing Obama’s history as president and his current campaign as if he exists in an alternate universe.

Let’s take a quick side trip to another alternate universe as an example in this post by Vast Left Wing Conspiracy:

Note that amid the various threads that split off from this, Aravosis says at one point: “perhaps it’s more accurate to say country is better off and people would be far worse right now if McCain had won.”

But the question at hand wasn’t “would an alt-reality term by the vanquished opponent have been worse?” It was the traditional query about how American citizens fared under the incumbent’s tenure

(I would encourage you to take a look at Vast Left’s post because — well, you’ll hate yourself later if you don’t)

Krugman blows right past the importance of Obama’s record as president and right into a question that is possibly weirder than than Aravosis’s (although Aravosis totally wins the bizarre metaphor competition.) I’ll repeat:

Obama came to office in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The question should be how well he dealt with that crisis — and in particular whether the man seeking to replace him would have done better.

Does Krugman REALLY expect that voters are supposed to imagine that Romney ran in 2008 and compare that alt-administration against Obama’s? Because I think that’s dumb.

From my point of view (and granted, I’m not an economist) – I have to wonder why 4 years after my house burned down nothing has been done to rebuild it.

And – as Dan H asked, why haven’t the arsonists been prosecuted.

Obama isn’t running against McCain this year (or Romney in 2008!!) – that’s a done deal. He’s running against his own record and Mitt Romney. Which should have been a joke campaign considering Romney’s history of making a personal contribution to raising the unemployment rate.

That Obama is running neck and neck against the guy shows that Unemployment is likely a critical issue in this race. And many of Obama’s 2008 voters aren’t impressed with his record on the issue.

There is a reason that Team Obama is throwing around all these metaphors — it’s all he’s got to offer us.

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