Bill O’Reilly v. George Will in a battle of wits is akin to a theological debate between Mark Shea and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Will is very full of himself and personifies the phrase “arrogant stuffed shirt” but he does a public service by stating the obvious truth that O’Reilly is the most foolish type of fool: one who thinks he a sage. O’Reilly’s “Killing” books, written I assume by his co-author Martin Dugard, are the worst type of junk history: factually weak, shabbily researched, pedestrian, at best, writing, zero historical context and always, always a conspiratorial slant. They are fit only to serve as kindling.
Dugard sought research advice from former representative Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who served in Reagan’s White House counsel’s office. Cox put Dugard in touch with former California governor Pete Wilson and several Reagan historians. Wilson and Cox warned that historians’ criticisms could hurt the book’s reception. Then O’Reilly charged on Fox News that Wilson and Cox somehow threatened him, adding gratuitously and falsely that Cox, as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, “presided over the mortgage debacle that collapsed the economy in 2007,” an explanation of the autumn 2008 collapse that is simply weird.
Cox put the book’s publisher in touch with Annelise Anderson, who, with her late husband, Marty, a longtime Reagan adviser, has authored and edited serious books about Reagan. She was offered $5,000 and given just one week to evaluate the manuscript. Having read it, she declined compensation, saying mildly, “I don’t think this manuscript is ready for publication.”
The book’s perfunctory pieties about Reagan’s greatness are inundated by its flood of regurgitated slanders about his supposed lassitude and manipulability. This book is nonsensical history and execrable citizenship, and should come with a warning: “Caution — you are about to enter a no-facts zone.”