Or does his somebody-save-me appearance on that network mean that he’s already lost?
The Harvard historian continues his embarrassment of glitches as he appears on Fox’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren and—I hate to say it—misleads Fox viewers about why his article is being criticized and what it actually says.
At the beginning of the interview, Van Susteren says to Ferguson that “even Paul Krugman has come out against you.” Ferguson responds, “Well, hell hath no fury like a liberal blogger scorned,” as if a) the source of Krugman’s discontent was a personal slight, and b) Paul Krugman is merely a “liberal blogger” as opposed to, say, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Princeton, which is the description you might expect from a fellow academic, if you’ll forgive the implicit assumption in that phrase.
Ferguson goes on to say that “despite all the furious denunciations I’m hearing from the likes of Paul Krugman, [my critics] are not addressing the issues that I raise.” He then explains that his Newsweek article is really about whether President Obama has been an effective leader.
If you put aside all the nitpicking arguments about this and that, cost of Medicare and “ObamaCare,” and knuckle down and ask those key questions, Has he delivered as a leader? Has he led effectively? I don’t think the answer can be yes.
Well, now, hang on a second there, Perfessor. Those “nitpicking” questions aren’t really so trivial, are they? Because your denunciation of Obama, particularly on domestic policy, is based on factual assertions like the one about Obamacare adding $1.2 trillion to the deficit, when you knew (or claim you knew) that that isn’t actually true. That whole bit about “knuckling down”—well, that’s kind of what your critics wish you had done, isn’t it? Knuckle down and get your facts right.
Of course, Ferguson is trying to redirect the discussion (which, in a strange way, is actually an admission of how mistake-ridden his article is). Forget about all those things I got wrong, he’s saying; only small minds care about such minutiae. Think about the big picture!
Ferguson also chastises his “critics in the liberal blogosphere”—the phrase is red meat for Fox viewers, if not particularly accurate—for not acknowledging his critique of Obama’s foreign policy, which mostly amounts to angst about China and the fact that Obama was “completely wrong-footed by” the Arab spring and “failed to build on it.”
The section of Ferguson’s piece which deals with foreign policy can be found here. I find it incoherent, full of contradiction and generally nonsensical. (What, exactly, would Ferguson have had Obama do in Iran? Or in Assad’s Syria, which includes among its allies both China and Russia?)
Yes, it’s probably true that events in Egypt caught Obama by surprise. Was there anyone who was not surprised by events in Egypt? Egypt was surprised by events in Egypt.
Ferguson then goes on to declare his man-crush on Paul Ryan.
I first met Paul Ryan in April 2010. I had been invited to a dinner in Washington where the U.S. fiscal crisis was going to be the topic of discussion. So crucial did this subject seem to me that I expected the dinner to happen in one of the city’s biggest hotel ballrooms. It was actually held in the host’s home. Three congressmen showed up—a sign of how successful the president’s fiscal version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (about the debt) had been. Ryan blew me away. I have wanted to see him in the White House ever since.
How can someone so worldly be so naive? Many important things in Washington have been decided over a small dinner in Georgetown (or, if you lean the other way, McLean). I am sure that Ryan has also articulated his philosophy at larger convocations.
And Ferguson shows his gift for misdirection when he says “I have wanted to see [Ryan] in the White House ever since. He actually wanted Ryan to be president, but Ferguson doesn’t want to say that now for fear of offending his potential boss, Mitt Romney.
A couple of things in the article and on Ferguson’s Fox appearance will be of particular interest to Harvardians. One, his critique of Obama’s domestic policy relies heavily on quotes attributed to Larry Summers in Ron Susskind’s book, The Confidence Men. One should never assume that Larry Summers’ bitching about the president reflected anything particularly meaningful. (Though perhaps Ferguson should have mentioned that Summers, while president of Harvard, hired him.)
And two, Ferguson, who has in the past said that intellectual life at Harvard is more rigorous than that of Oxford, takes a couple shots at grade inflation in Cambridge (MA), at one point saying, “I would give [Obama] — let me be tough in Harvard terms — a B-minus.”
That’s gratitude for you: Going on Harvard-hatin’ Fox News to denigrate the place that gave you a lifetime job.
In writing his article, Mr. Ferguson proved that, as an academic, he makes a great rhetorician. In defending it, he suggests that, as a person, he is kind of a jerk.