SYNOPSIS: Please click here to watch the video of this interview.
Carlson: Now, by our count, Mr. Krugman, of the 4 columns you've written since January, 47 have attacked the Bush administration pretty savagely. That seems obsessive to me. There's nothing else to write about but the Bush administration?
Krugman: It's the most important thing happening right now. When I think of where we are right now in the world, let alone just in the United States, the most important thing is what are we going to do about political direction? I've always been, you might say, I've always been interested in just intellectually in crisis points and seems to me the crisis point, the most important one in the world now is here in the United States. And furthermore, this is my country, so that's what I'm writing about.
Carlson: But there are a lot of things happening in your country. And so far as I can tell you're not a leftist but a liberal. So you're not attacking Bush on ideological grounds but almost on personal grounds, which I think gives off the obsessive quality from your columns.
Krugman: You think it's obsessive. But I think this is a very bad administration. I think it is, you know, the further back in history you go, but I think this is as bad in terms of contempt for the norms of Democratic government as Nixon and it is much less competent than Nixon. So if I believe that and I think that that's what's really important, that's what I should be writing about. Some of the columns I've written are not necessarily specifically I hate Bush, they are, boy, we've messed up management and those are the managers. In another time and another place, I might be writing something -- I hope to be writing something different either when these people begin to behave more like a grownup government or when we have a different group of people who behave like a grownup government.
Carlson: I'm struck you don't sound when talking now like your column does. You essentially said the Bush administration is dishonest and that it's not very competent. I think those are -- I may not agree with them but I think those are reasonable or at least objectively fair criticisms. Let me tell you precisely the moment I stop taking your column seriously and it was in October and you wrote quite a famous piece essentially blaming the Bush administration foreign policy for anti-Semitic remarks the prime minister of Malaysia made.
Krugman: It's a misrepresentation of what I said.
Carlson: You said is he a very wily, the prime minister of Malaysia, which you know personally.
Krugman: Met him once.
Carlson: Not the most evil in the Muslim world, but he's forced into making these --
Krugman: I didn't say force.
Carlson: Of the Bush administration foreign policy.
Krugman: No, what I actually said -- you're -- ok. Let me say what I said and clearly a lot of people got mad at me over that one. But he is a wily guy and a nasty guy. I wrote about the time I met him how unnerving and frightening I found him when I was there and really was glad to get out of Malaysia. But he turns it on and off. He's a tactical anti-semite. I'm not sure what he really believes but he turns it on and off. The question I was asking was why has he found it useful or important to turn it on right now? And I said the Bush administration has created this enormous ill-will in the Muslim world, which gave him -- this may not have -- this was probably not the smartest column to write.
Carlson: It's Bush's fault the prime minister of Malaysia hates Jews?
Krugman: No. What I said was what is it -- I was using the prime minister's speech as a way to ask what is the state of things in the Muslim world? I was highlighting what we know, that we have managed to generate an incredible amount of ill-will in the Muslim world, much more so in the aftermath of September 11, it wasn't that way at all.
Carlson: I wondered when I read that, who are you writing for?
Krugman: I was saying right from the beginning that the Bush administration is dishonest in its budget policy. In what it says, that you cannot trust what they say, they are disingenuous in terms of describing both what they intend to accomplish and describing the numbers. And there was a long time when I was all alone saying that.
Carlson: Would you work for John Kerry if he offered you a job?
Krugman: No. I will not accept a job in the next administration, whether Bush or Kerry.
Carlson: One last question, you said in a recent column you feared that governor Jeb Bush of Florida might tamper with voting machines in some secret way.
Krugman: I didn't say that but I do fear --
Carlson: I think you did say that pretty clearly in the column three different times.
Krugman: No. I said there is great concern. Look, let's talk about what we know about Florida, ok? What we know is that in 2000 there was a big problem with the felon list, which disenfranchised a lot of people, which was basically a piece of junk and disenfranchised a lot of people who were not felons. Everybody said they're not going to do that again. Then in 2004 we knew they had drawn up a felon list which they kept secret. They refused to release. And finally a court forced them to release the felon list. And guess what? Within a day, Florida newspapers had discovered that several thousand people had been wrongly disenfranchised on the new felon list, not through generalized difficulty of doing this but through a specific error anybody should have caught, failing to re-enfranchise people who had been given clemency. With a few more days people discovered something else, that there was basically no Hispanics on the list, which was not through sloppiness but through a ludicrous computer error that it turns out they had been warned of in advance. So every indication is that either these people are amazingly incompetent at this crucial issue of deciding who they're going to exclude from voting or they have ill-intentions. I can't prove it's ill-intentions but --
Carlson: But even to suggest something like that without proof doesn't it strike you as out of normal journalistic bounds.
Krugman: We're out of normal political times. This was --
Carlson: Especially making it worse by suggesting people might be committing not just crimes but horrendous crimes that undermines democracy itself without proof they're doing that.
Krugman: What if it were happening and people refused to talk about the possibility.
Carlson: You don't know it is happening. That's the point.
Krugman: The felon list is strong circumstantial evidence there was an intention to deprive people of -- legitimate voters of the vote. And what more could you ask for? What conceivable evidence in advance of an election could you have of intended vote tampering than the strong circumstantial evidence we have now, right? On your rules where you can't raise the possibility unless you have proof is a situation in which people who are playing to rig an election will get away with it because there will be no circumstances under which a journalist could raise a red flag.
Carlson: Do you think, since you seem to see the Bush administration as sort of the root of the rot in our democracy, do you think if Bush is defeated and replaced by Kerry things will all be better?
Krugman: No, I actually don't. If you read what I wrote, I think Bush is the culmination of a long movement. Wrong thing that is clear is this -- one thing that is clear it is it probably the most secretive administration ever. I want to know what really has been going on. I think if we do fine out what really has been going on, look, maybe you will be vindicated.
Carlson: Is it wrong to hypothesize about it?
Krugman: No. I want to know. I don't want this shroud of secrecy to drop. If I had been foolish and attributing ill motives to people behaving with absolute probity, that will become clear if the facts are out there and I will be the first to apologize and say, gee, there was nothing there. But, you know, we won't know unless we let the sunlight in.
Carlson: All right. Paul Krugman, thanks very much.
Krugman: Thank you.
Originally broadcast, 8.6.04