Paul Krugman, probably the world's most influential columnist, has long been skeptical of Barack Obama. These days, his skepticism is turning into disdain. If you read Krugman's blog, he often writes about Obama as if the president were a Republican--i.e., not favorably!

Here, for example, is Krugman's take on the spending freeze, titled "Obama Liquidates Himself":

[I]t’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.”

Now, I still cling to a fantasy: maybe, just possibly, Obama is going to tie his spending freeze to something that would actually help the economy, like an employment tax credit. (No, trivial tax breaks don’t count). There has, however, been no hint of anything like that in the reports so far. Right now, this looks like pure disaster.

This is just a guess, but I'm pretty sure Obama has not "embraced and validated the Republican world view." It's more likely he's adjusting to changing political circumstances in the wake of the Massachusetts special election and public disapproval of his agenda. Nor is it really the case that Obama has "embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008." I have yet to see Obama come out for the McCain health care reform, for example. What's more, McCain advocated a spending freeze in 2008, when the economic and political circumstances were far different than today. Calling for a freeze in non-defense discretionary spending in the middle of the financial crisis was an arguable proposition. Calling for a freeze in non-defense discretionary spending after the worst of the crisis is over, the Obama administration already increased such spending in its 2010 budget, and the debt bomb is ticking is a no-brainer.

Nevertheless, if you are a committed liberal, as Krugman is, you have every right to be angry at the president. In the course of just one week, a Republican took Ted Kennedy's senate seat, the health care bill fell apart, cap-and-trade is over, Ben Bernanke's re-appointment may be in jeopardy, and Obama called for an entitlement commission and a spending freeze. In December, Obama increased the American commitment to Afghanistan. He's likely to strike a more assertive position with Iran this year. He's realized that he does not need Republican control of Congress to triangulate against liberal Democrats. All he needs is for liberal Democrats to back policies the public dislikes.

Rule of thumb: The angrier Krugman gets, the better things will be.

Meanwhile, read Ramesh Ponnuru on Obama and the spending freeze.

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