Kerry, Mallaby, Wal-Mart, and Benedict Arnold

No, the Washington Post did not run a column accusing John Kerry of treason.

I have no reason to defend Sebastian Mallaby, but I don’t think he intended to call John Kerry a traitor, as Atrios and Brad DeLong seem to think he did.

Mallaby’s reference to “John ‘Benedict Arnold’ Kerry” in a column about Wal-Mart’s economic impact was meant, I suspect, to refer to Kerry’s campaign against “Benedict Arnold companies” that reconstituted themselves as Bahamian rather than American entities in order to duck paying their share of the taxes that support (among other things) our army. Mallaby’s point was that if an adviser to Kerry thinks Wal-Mart is OK, Wal-Mart must really be OK, because Kerry was against greedy unpatriotic companies. (As if corporate tax-dodging by locating off-shore and importing tons of stuff from low-wage countries are even remotely related issues.)

No, don’t try to make sense of that; it doesn’t actually parse. But I think that was Mallaby’s (rather dull) point. He didn’t mean to say that Kerry himself was a Benedict Arnold. There’s enough real McCarthyism on the Right these days that we should avoid seeing it where it isn’t.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: