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I haven't watched the great Krugman vs. Scarborough showdown on the Charlie Rose Show, but a friend has, and he says Scarborough won a crushing victory. He sent me a fuming email about it:
I'm pretty angry that Krugman didn't seem to anticipate what was coming. And he clearly displayed the wonks' debilitating inability to simplify and strongly advocate their policy prescriptions, while simply and clearly tearing down the other side's positions. This is extremely important because historically wonks lose out to the gasbags, and that can lead to horrific governance and policy issues. Krugman's debating talents, such as they are, are not suited for most broad television audiences. And, in direct contrast, that is all Scarborough's arguments and debating style are suited for.
The most depressing thing about this, though, is other than Bill Clinton, I can't think of anyone on the left who can clearly and nimbly take somebody like Scarborough apart. Sure, there are many that can do it in an 800 word column the next day — Krugman being one of the best at this — but that's nowhere near the same thing.
I'm not here to pile on Krugman. Scarborough has years of experience as both politician and TV host, and he knows all the tricks of the trade. Most of us don't. This obviously just isn't Krugman's sweet spot.
But I'm more interested in my friend's final question: who do we have on the left who's got the real-world debating skills to take on someone like Scarborough? Who's on our television A-team? Not folks who can win technical debating points, but folks who can rabble-rouse with the best of them and hold their own against slick carnival barkers like Scarborough? Jared Bernstein seems to do OK in the lion's den of Larry Kudlow's show. Who else?