If only he know the word for this behavior, his post would be snappier. But here is Paul Krugman talking about the phenomenon of Iron Manning. The case at hand is the iron manning of Paul Ryan's budget plan. You can follow the links in the cited passage. I'll point out right away, for the skeptics, that there is an empirical element to this charge–iron manning that is. I think People have accused (rightly) Paul Ryan of being a dishonest tool, so minus one to Krugman on that. Anyway, Krugman writes (via Balloon Juice):
In my next life I want to be a conservative policy scammer. Think of how much nicer it would be. Instead of constantly being accused of having evil motives, I’d be presumed to have noble intentions no matter how much the actual content of my policy proposals was at odds with such claims. Instead of being accused of saying bad things I never said, I’d be given credit for supporting good things I’ve never supported. Life would be great!
OK, I’m whining. But the continuing defense of Paul Ryan is a remarkable phenomenon. He’s still being treated by many pundits as a man deeply concerned about deficits, when the fact is that his policy proposals are all about redistributing income upward, and make no serious effort to curb debt. He’s even given credit for advocating higher taxes on the rich when he has more or less specifically rejected the things for which he’s given credit.
So Ryan has been iron-manned. That's the reverse of being straw manned. There might be an empirical case that this happens more often to people like Ryan than people like Krugman, but someone else can argue that. I think there is little question, however, that it is the case with Ryan.
Now consider the iron manners:
What’s going on here? The defenders of Ryan come, I’d argue, in two types.
One type is the pseudo-reasonable apparatchik. There are a fair number of pundits who make a big show of debating the issues, stroking their chins, and then — invariably — find a way to support whatever the GOP line may be. There’s no mystery in their support for Ryan.
The other type is more interesting: the professional centrist. These are people whose whole pose is one of standing between the extremes of both parties, and calling for a bipartisan solution. The problem they face is how to maintain this pose when the reality is that a quite moderate Democratic party — one that is content to leave tax rates on the rich far below those that prevailed for most of the past 70 years, that has embraced a Republican health care plan — faces a radical-reactionary GOP.
What these people need is reasonable Republicans. And if such creatures don’t exist, they have to invent them. Hence the elevation of Ryan — who is, in fact, a garden-variety GOP extremist, but with a mild-mannered style — to icon of fiscal responsibility and honest argument, despite the reality that his proposals are both fiscally irresponsible and quite dishonest.
How much longer can this last? I guess we’ll eventually find out.
So this is a classic case of iron manning: take a crappy argument, suggest it's a good one by distortion [of some variety], suggest (by implication) that its critics are extremists or shrill (Krugman).