Buffoon Exposed


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.”

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  1. I was aware that Bill O’Reilly was an unwatchable television personality,
    but I had no idea he was also an unreadable author.

  2. There are lots of curios about Reagan. One thing he was not was ‘manipulable’, at least not about anything he cared about. David Stockman’s main complaint was that no one could persuade him to agree to tax increases. Tax increases were a sensible policy notion at the time. The thing is, one has to take a gander at the ratio of federal debt to domestic product during the period running from 1991 to 1995, after a Republican president agreed to a tax increase. The salutary effect on federal debt loads was nil. Federal debt loads began to decline only when someone took the Congressional committees away from the Democratic Party. Reagan could seem terribly fuddled. He never served in Congress. He attended a tiny college in small town Illinois while Stockman attended Harvard. Yet, he understood something that Stockman did not about how Democratic members of Congress react to stimulus.

    And that’s the funny thing about Reagan. He hardly seemed to know what was going on half the time. He worked a nine to five schedule. He let his wife do the strangest things with his appointment calendar. And yet, he knew how to pick his subordinates and just how far to trust them. Reagan worked 40 hour weeks, generating some problems and some solutions. Jimmy Carter worked (per his account) medical resident’s hours and couldn’t stop peeing on the rug to save his life. He had some successes with the regulatory agencies and that’s it; he went from one failure to another. Lyndon Johnson worked a similar schedule and went from one catastrophe to another. We’re still facing policy dilemmas from his mistakes.

    One thing you might consider is that Reagan was a man who disliked personal confrontation (just not to the pathological degree Richard Nixon did). Some of this fuddlement may just have been a tactic in difficult interpersonal situations, much the way Eisenhower used garbled syntax to confuse reporters.

  3. Between 1975-1979 Reagan gave daily radio commentaries. He wrote 679 of them himself.

    He had thought and written about most of the issues that would confront him during his Presidency. He knew what he wanted to do, could articulate it clearly and managed to accomplish quite a bit of it, without ever having control of Congress. The fact that he was widely ridiculed as an amiable dunce by many of his adversaries, probably helped him. There is a fair amount of truth in this old SNL skit:


  4. The fact that he was widely ridiculed as an amiable dunce by many of his adversaries, probably helped him.

    Paul Johnson made a similiar point about Eisenhower in Modern Times.

    That’s probably my all time favorite SNL skit, by the way.

    I sometimes wonder what the world would look like today if Reagan could have served a third term (assuming he would have run for reelection in ’88).

  5. Not having paid enough attention to Mr. Will to consider him an arrogant stuffed shirt, I withhold judgment but cannot resist appropriating the phrase for the unserious purpose of mere humor. To wit: “Stuffed Shirt versus Bear Shirt”.

  6. Paul Johnson made a similiar point about Eisenhower in Modern Times.

    I remember reading a book review in The Nation ca. 1981 of some tome by Garry Wills where the author noted parenthetically that Wills ‘attempt to make Eisenhower sound bright’ was a bridge too far. Think about that for a moment. You’re one of an odd minority of the 1890 cohort with a college degree, you are one of an odd minority of soldiers who is promoted to the rank of general officer and one of only a scatter to attain the 5th star, you organize the largest amphibious invasion in history and command the whole European theatre, you serve as Army Chief of Staff, as President of Columbia University, and as President of the United States. You are the only president in the history of modern survey research who maintained the approval of the general public throughout your term of office and did so without any winner-winner-chicken-dinner gimmicks. And you get called a dope by some aged juvenile who writes for a birdcage liner opinion magazine. That’ll give you an idea of what the red-haze left is all about.

  7. The fact that he was widely ridiculed as an amiable dunce by many of his adversaries,

    The term was Clark Clifford’s. R.M. Kaus once said he’d never been able to figure out where Reagan’s intelligence lay. “It must lie somewhere”. You do get the impression that a certain amount of it was a head fake. Remember his crack about Michael Dukakis when he was asked about rumors Dukakis had visited a shrink, “I’m not going to pick on an invalid”. The press conference ends at that point. Years later, political journalists like Jack Germond were puzzling over this remark. Was it just an off-hand joke? Was it a clever means of jabbing and embarrassing Dukakis without directly endorsing the rumors? No one quite knew.

  8. could articulate it clearly and managed to accomplish quite a bit of it,

    Mostly in foreign affairs and re some of the regulatory agencies. No one’s managed yet to break any iron triangles. Exhibit A: the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a stew of corruption and pointless intervention in markets which are completely local. Congress is an awful institution. Gets worse every year.

  9. Geez, Jack Germond, Baltimore Sun editorial page blowhard….haven’t heard that name mentioned in years.

    Ronald Reagan was far smarter than his adversaries ever gave him credit for. One of the best books written about Reagan is Paul Kengor’s The Last Crusader.

    Had Reagan been the beneficiary of a House such as the one Newt Gingrich led in 1995, we would not have had the deficits (small as they seem today).

    Reagan wanted the Iron Curtain melted for scrap and the USSR eliminated. Both happened, even though they occurred after Reagan left office. The Reagan Administration whipped inflation (they let Paul Volcker do what needed to be done), lowered income tax rates and grew the economy. Tax revenue nearly doubled in 10 years.

    I wish Reagan would have blockaded Cuba and forced Castro out.

  10. “a theological debate between Mark Shea and Saint Thomas Aquinas. ”

    Here’s a transcript of how that debate would go down.

    St. Thomas: Mr. Shea, intrinsic evil is something that is evil in it’s very object. Since torture cannot be defined in an objective way, torture cannot be intrinsically evil.

    Shea: Thomas, you’re just a bloodthirsty consequentialist! Get off my blog!

  11. “Not having paid enough attention to Mr. Will to consider him an arrogant stuffed shirt, I withhold judgment but cannot resist appropriating the phrase for the unserious purpose of mere humor. To wit: ‘Stuffed Shirt versus Bear Shirt’.”

    I have read George Will’s writings widely and am more recently shocked (on a semi-regular basis) that his views are held up as “conservative.” “Conservative compared to whom” often comes to mind in re: to Mr. Will. IMHO, the turn of phrase, “a stuffed shirt,” is aptly applied to Mr. Will. I will say that a lot of his general political/societal musings in the past have made for light, enjoyable reading. I seem to be on a continual pendulum swing in re: to Mr. O’Reilly–one minute the pendulum reads, “That makes sense” extreme and the next moment the pendulum reads, “Has this guy lost his mind?” Anyone would know that it isn’t possible to churn out accurately and contextually sound historical texts as rapidly as O’Reilly has turned out the series of books under discussion.

  12. Re: the use of Edmond Morris’ so-called “official” biography of Reagan that O’Reilly cites as a verifying source for the leftist claim that Reagan was considered mentally & physically unstable by some during Reagan’s presidency:

    O’Reilly shows himself to be either an ignorant fool or very shallow researcher. I have the combo fictional/nonfictional biography, “Dutch.” I have poured over it. The biography is quite the joke. O’Reilly knows that citing a “source” does not mean that source is valid. In fact, Edmond Morris includes more than one fictional character in the text of the “biography.”


  13. No one is above criticism. But, some criticisms of Eisenhower and Reagan are Orwellian. .

    Despicable liars and rank morons, in the face of contrary data, facts, economic statistics think that Obama is a superb president. Outside being elected, Obama’s prior civilian job experience revolved around distributing propaganda leaflets, commanding sit-ins, and fronting CRA/racial discrimination litigations against banks that set precedents which contributed to the recent unhappy housing crisis and great recession. Despite going on seven years of huge monetary ($4 trillion Fed balance sheet) and fiscal (added $8 or $9 trillion to national debt) stimuli, 93 million working-age Americans can’t find adequate employment and economists pop the champagne corks if they can get a 2% GDP rise.
    Eisenhower commanded the allied armed forces and won the war in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Western Europe. The American people liked Ike because they were at peace, happy and prosperous. The democrats hate all that ergo Ike wasn’t too bright.

    Reagan won the Cold War. He inherited a severe recession. Then, his administration’s economic policies produced a rapid recovery and growth, something like 5% GDP p.a., which most Obama-worshipping idiot academic economists now say is impossible to attain. Obama can’t do it. They hate that and Reagan isn’t too bright.

    If somehow, miraculously, America, in general, and academia, in particular, manages to reverse the trend and avoid idiocracy (it takes a special kind of stupidity to vote twice for Obama), historians will rank President Reagan on the short list with Washington and Lincoln.

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