Paul Krugman responds to comments on his latest column, "The Mensch Gap":
Krugman's Money Talks: No Menschen in Washington, Commentary, NY Times: ... Ken Shemberg, Bowling Green, Ohio: As usual, I think you have it right. This administration couldn't admit a fault if they were caught red-handed on videotape. But, to be fair, is that really different from other presidents? Your example of Ike's D-Day letter was written before he became a president. Maybe Lincoln admitted faults — he liked to poke fun at himself — and maybe Kennedy admitted fault on the Bay of Pigs. But in reading presidential biographies, it's hard for me to dredge up a time when a president said, yep, I was wrong — on a major issue, anyway. Can you think of one? Grover Cleveland did admit to having an illegitimate daughter. But that was a bit different, wasn't it?
Paul Krugman: Fair enough; full-blown apologies from politicians are rare. But I think there are two distinguishing features of this administration. First, they don't even make tacit admissions that they made mistakes. Both Reagan and Clinton changed course and brought in better people when it became clear that their policies weren't working; these guys never do. In particular, it's obvious to everyone that Rumsfeld and Chertoff are incompetent. But they're loyal, and Bush chose them, so they stay.
The other is that they don't even admit to themselves that they've made mistakes, and learn nothing from experience. I'll write soon about how looming problems with Medicare Part D were ignored in the months after Katrina, when any normal administration would have wondered what other things it was unready for.
Max Wieselthier, New York.: A quite beautiful exposition with one minor defect. The plural for mensch is menschen.
Paul Krugman: Yes, I know. What do you take me and my parents for, untermenschen? But it's become an English word for all practical purposes. And if The History Channel can pronounce Field Marshal Rommel's first name "Irwin", I can anglicize the plural of mensch. ...