Paul Krugman, rock-em sock-em liberal columnist for The New York Times, was at Town Hall last night, peddling his new book and taking on three dragons. One was a bad head cold. The other was all the talk about climate change emanating from Mayor Nickels' celebrity confab on that topic (Krugman is tone-deaf to this issue). The third dragon was the drift of modern history. Krugman is a wonderful columnist, a first-rate purveyor of economic facts and analysis. He's got an acid sense of humor, as when he described the 2004 George Bush campaign as one where Bush ran against "gay married terrorists." But he is also firmly anchored in the New Deal, wishing for the return of FDR and one last big federal entitlement program, health insurance for all. Much of the talk, rapid-fire, funny, and without notes, pinned the hopes for a Democratic revival on health care. Passing a massive insurance plan was described as far more likely than in 1993, in part because the leading Democratic candidates are preparing the electorate during the campaign, not springing the idea, as Bill Clinton did, after he got elected. Krugman thinks passage of a good plan would revitalize the party and lead to still more of the old time New Deal religion. The audience of Town Hall liberals was moderately warm in its reception. Seattle is not exactly the best city to deplore the rise of a mass upper class, set loose by cutting taxes, deregulation, and globalization in the last 20 years. Krugman finds the rise of the modern American economy to be out of synch with Europe and Canada, where labor remains strong and health care is universal. It's a nostalgic message, as he admits, harking back to the we're-all-middle-class world of the Eisenhower years. He's not interested in the more decentralized approach of the modern political order, with individual states working on medical plans and individual cities attacking climate change. And it's hard to imagine any of the Democratic presidential candidates having the domestic urgency of a FDR during the Depression. To be sure, the Bush zingers were wickedly funny. He dusted off a British term, "dogwhistle politics," to describe the coded messages Bush loves: They hear it, but you don't. An example is "compassionate conservatism," which he interpreted for us non-dogs to mean getting government out of the business of caring for the poor and leaving it to the church ladies of the Gilded Age. That's a nostalgia he didn't share.