Obama Campaign Email With Criticism of Krugman, Liberal Blogs Triggers Ire

Aug 17, 2011 8:50pm

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:  

A controversial email from an Obama campaign staffer in New Mexico to statewide supporters earlier this month highlights the ideological divide on the left over the debt ceiling deal, while raising the ire of the president's most liberal critics. 

On Aug. 1, just hours after Congress approved the bipartisan deal, Obama for America New Mexico State Director Ray Sandoval sent out an email blast with an attached blog post that he said “does a great job of explaining the Debt Ceiling deal.”  

The article, penned by Spandan Chakrabarti of “The People’s View,” is largely an annotated summary of the legislative package, which he calls an “out and out win for the president,” including links to the White House website and explanations of the super committee process and the ensuing triggers (automatic cuts) if it doesn’t reach a deal. 

But it’s Chakrabarti’s words for some of the president’s Democratic critics that pack the real punch.

He calls Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman a “political rookie” and refers to other detractors of the compromise the “Firebagger Lefty blogosphere” who he believes are all misguided in their assessment of deal.  

“The loudest screeching noise you hear coming from Krugman and the ideologue Left is, of course, Medicare. Oh, no, the President is agreeing to a Medicare trigger!!! Oh noes!!! Everybody freak out right now! But let’s look at the deal again, shall we,” he writes.   

Krugman has called the debt deal a “disaster” for Obama, Democrats and the U.S. economy.

Later, Chakrabarti, 28, says of the triggers, which include pain for both parties, “The more than half-a-trillion in defense and security spending cut ‘trigger’ for the Republicans will hardly earn a mention on the Firebagger Lefty blogosphere….” 

The email was first obtained and reported on by the left-leaning Huffington Post.  Chakrabarti’s full blog on the debt deal can be found HERE.

While an Obama campaign spokeswoman said “the views expressed in this email do not represent the views of the campaign,” the association of inflammatory language with the president’s re-election team has touched a nerve in some circles.

 “What exactly does OFA [Obama for America] think they stand to gain by ridiculing Krugman as a ‘political rookie,’ a hysterical ‘fanatic’ and an ‘ideologue’?,” blasted Jane Hamsher, author of the popular liberal blog FireDogLake. “Do they think they hold so much sway with liberals that they can discredit Krugman and thus neutralize his criticism?”

The episode likely compounds the belief expressed by some liberals that the White House has not been respectful of or responsive to their concerns. 

Since taking office, several top Obama aides have raised the ire of liberals with their words.  Former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel last year privately called a group of liberal activists “f—ing retarded,” while several months later former press secretary Robert Gibbs lashed out at what he called the “professional left.” One blogger confronted senior strategist David Axelrod to demand an end to the administration’s “hippie punching.”   

For his part, Chakrabarti, stands by his choice of words, though he sees the controversy swirling around them as more of a distraction from the point he was trying to make.

“I wrote it three weeks ago, and I didn’t expect it to go viral,” he said of the post. “There’s a tendency to focus on conflict rather than focus on merits, which are really why Sandoval probably sent it out.” 

The self-described liberal and Obama supporter who lives in Silicon Valley, Calif., calls the debt ceiling deal an “out and out win for the president” even though it didn’t include everything liberals would have wanted. 

And, he says, agitation on the left against the compromise makes them increasingly look like the Tea Party. 

“When I used the term firebagger, I meant people who are more interested in winning an ideological argument that they are in making policy progress,” Chakrabarti said. 

UPDATE:   Krugman responded to the controversy Thursday in a New York Times blog post which he titled “Hippie Punching.”

“I learn that some people in the Obama campaign really, really dislike people like me, who complain when the president gives in to GOP blackmail,” Krugman wrote.  “Well, at least they’re paying attention.”

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