He contorts, I decide

By Ilana Mercer

There’s a reason Bill O’Reilly often refers to what exits his motor mouth as “theses” and “analyses.” It’s known in psychology as overcompensating for one’s inadequacies, in this case intellectual. O’Reilly, however, can relax. National Review, the gold standard of faux conservatism, praised him for his “masterful” arguments during a televised confrontation with Paul Krugman.

Masterful arguments? Bill O’Reilly? James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Whittaker Chambers must be turning in their graves.

The grave is where I thought the New York Times’ timid crypto-socialist columnist was going to end after being mauled by the “Fox News” pit bull on “Meet the Press.” The forum is “moderated” by Tim Russert, who “moderates” only in the sense that Larry King “interviews.” Russert didn’t attempt to contain O’Reilly’s ugly aggression, as he yapped and jabbed at his terrified, bug-eyed opponent.

I am no admirer of the Princeton professor’s Keynesian economics, or rather, his selective Keynesianism. Coming from a devotee of central planner John Maynard Keynes, Krugman’s sudden aversion to deficits is suspicious. Keynes, the statist’s house economist, advocated deficits to stimulate the economy (ever tried spending yourself out of debt?). On his opposition to tax cuts, Krugman might have retained some credibility (he didn’t) had he pointed out that runaway deficits make a mockery of such cuts – the taxpayer will eventually be saddled with the bill.

Especially unendearing is Krugman’s claim that “Before the ‘General Theory,’ [Keynes’ book] economists could not explain how depressions happen, or what to do about them.” This is plainly wrong as well as an affront to Ludwig von Mises, who wrote the “Theory of Money and Credit” (1912) well in advance of Keynes’ contribution to the theory and practice of a state-manipulated economy. If anything, Mises showed that the Keynesian cure endorsed by Krugman – inflating the money supply in order to stimulate demand – causes depressions.

Just as false, however, is O’Reilly’s contention that the perpetually profligate Bush is an apostle of smaller government. Bush regularly and disingenuously disguises incessant and dedicated spending by alluding only to the amount of never-vetoed squandering Congress authorizes each year, when he ought to cite the actual amount the government is spending. The growth in actual spending – government outlays – continues its unabated increase.

But this doesn’t make Bush a “liar,” does it? Boy, O’Reilly really hates that word. Use it in conjunction with “the war in Iraq” and Blowhard Bill threatens to burst like a balloon.

No “Arabian Nights” tale about the dangers posed by Iraq was too tall for our “humble correspondent” and the “Fox News” harem of harridans. Throughout the invasion, Breaking News flashes enlightened us regarding bleeping Geiger counters and just-found nuclear fuel (retractions seldom followed). We were told – Bush only recently and reluctantly dropped this untruth from his repertoire of fictoids – that empty weather-monitoring vans harbored teams of Dr. Suleiman Strangeloves. “Analysis” that disputed the case for war (including the Constitution) never managed to inveigle its way into the Fox “thesis.” To be fair, many in the media succumbed to such disgraceful journalistic practices, including Judith Miller, Krugman’s colleague at the Gray Lady.

O’Reilly’s definition of “liar” is every bit as legalistic as Bill Clinton’s. Bush excluded all “analysis” (including from his own highly regarded experts) that didn’t comport with his “thesis” about Iraq. He adopted (posthaste and post hoc) as his preferred sources of information corrupt parties like Egypt, Jordan, ex-KGB man Vladimir Putin, and Ahmad Chalabi. He ignored objective reality, invading an indisputably hobbled country, launching the invasion when “an effective inspections regime was in place” (to quote Krugman), after having “effectively caged Saddam.”

But labeling Bush a liar is “slander and defamation,” to repeat the fulminating O’Reilly.

Fine. For the sake of semantics, how does “criminally negligent” grab you? Proving intent ought not to be a hurdle since Bush still holds that his destruction of lives (American and Iraqi) and property (American and Iraqi) was worth it. But if mens rea is a sticking point, I’ll settle for negligence, with an emphasis on breach of duty.

Despite Krugman’s courageous analysis of the war, he should know better than to resort to conspiracy mongering. To claim, as he does, that “Fox News” workers all get marching orders from Rupert Murdoch is of a piece with the war-for-oil-and-Israel delusions. That likeminded people have congregated to fill a certain niche, and in the process have abandoned “fair and balanced” reportage is no plot, only commerce.

To the same mental miasma belongs O’Reilly’s slander of France, Germany and Russia for their refusal to join in a war he himself now calls “a big screw up.” On Iraq, these nations and their leaders were of a different – certainly smarter – mindset than Bush & O’Reilly et al. France, Germany and Russia discerningly decided not to commit their nations to an endeavor O’Reilly now dubs dumb. It takes a deeply dense “analyst” to search for a sinister conspiracy to excuse wisdom.

If O’Reilly proves anything (over and over again) it is that Gresham’s Law (generalized beyond economics) reigns supreme: Specious reasoning will always drive out careful thinking.