Newsweek turned into a parody of itself months ago—call it what you will, NewsBeast, The Daily Weak, whatever—but is anyone even bothering to laugh now? This week, it follows (as if to balance the scales) its “Is Romney a Wimp” cover with a blast at Obama by ever-more-right-wing Niall Ferguson, titled “Hit the Road, Barack.” Since Newsweek seems inspired by Ray Charles, perhaps it will put Representative Todd Akin on next week’s cover under the heading, “What’d I Say?” Or the GOP congressman who skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”
Would you be surprised if it did?
I wrote the following column yesterday morning but so many others have critiqued Ferguson since that I thought an update was more than warranted. So see the comments from James Fallows, Andrew Sullivan and many others at the bottom. Also, Ferguson has just written a massive response to critics here, surprise, he sees conspiracy, and admits hating "liberal bloggers."
Paul Krugman, just back from vacation, last night in a blog post slammed Ferguson for severe and “unethical” factual errors. Getting to just one for now, he pointed to a grossly misleading claim about the CBO’s saying Obamacare will be adding to the deficit when in fact it said no such thing. Krugman says an official correction of this “cheap shot” by Newsweek is warranted. I’m guessing he will blog about it some more today.
Here’s the Ferguson piece, via Daily Beast, which includes, yes, charts. Here’s a brief reading guide:
• Even at a glance I can see that he uses 2008 numbers (from the Bush years) against the president, to show what we have lost—going back to before the economic collapse.
• Also, he makes the despicable claim, which isn’t even true, that half of Americans don’t pay taxes (by pointing merely to IRS net “taxable income”). And that half get some kind of government assistance—as if he wants to do away with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps.
• He writes, “Welcome to Obama’s America,” when it’s more accurate to say, “Welcome to the Bush-Romney America.” Indeed, he finds only “some truth” in any blame for Obama’s predecessor.
• Plus he regrets that we left Iraq—and apparently wants us to stay in Afghanistan forever. Yet remains a deficit hawk.
• And then the inevitable: “I know, like, and admire Paul Ryan. For me, the point about him is simple. He is one of only a handful of politicians in Washington who is truly sincere about addressing this country’s fiscal crisis.” Unsaid, of course, is that Ryan supported every major budget-busting move of the past decade. I love this: He writes of a dinner with Ryan in 2010, “Ryan blew me away. I have wanted to see him in the White House ever since.”
Get a room, guys! This is the Kristol-Palin affair, redux, with a little Rich Lowry on the side. Send Niall one of the shirtless Ryan shots, please.
And then: “But one thing is clear. Ryan psychs Obama out. This has been apparent ever since the White House went on the offensive against Ryan in the spring of last year. And the reason he psychs him out is that, unlike Obama, Ryan has a plan—as opposed to a narrative—for this country.”
Come on Niall, even school boys know it should be “psychs out Obama.”
Ferguson has replied to Krugman—but his reply provokes economist Brad Delong to say he should be fired by Newsweek and reviewed by his peers at Harvard. Here’s a Business Insider review of Ferguson’s many wrong predictions on the economy. A New Statesman writer calls Ferguson “pitiful.” Ferguson went on Bloomberg TV today to claim that the critics are only “nit-picking,” not “fact-checking.”
James Fallows writes that as a Harvard alum (Ferguson famously teaches there) he must apologize, at The Atlantic. Ferguson “is so careless and unconvincing that I wonder how he will presume to sit in judgment of the next set of student papers he has to grade.”
Andrew Sullivan, a good friend of Ferguson’s (and now at the Daily Beast, ouch), cries “intellectual foul” and adds that the “piece is sadly so ridden with errors and elisions and non-sequiturs it will require a few more posts.” He calls one Ferguson claim “absurd propaganda, not journalism.” Later he returned to defend Krugman’s reply.
From Alex Pareene at Salon (who exagerates only slightly in declaring “every fact wrong”). Pareene: “Niall Ferguson is an intellectual fraud whose job, for years, has been to impress dumb rich Americans with his accent and flatter them with his writings…. while there are tons of very legitimate and compelling arguments against the Obama presidency, Ferguson instead based his article on a bunch of crap he made up.”
Plus, more from Josh Holland—Ferguson can’t even get his own history right, or lies about it. Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog calls the piece “political journalism at its most atrocious.” Even Dylan Byers at Politico joins in.
Greg Mitchell’s books and e-books on influential American campaigns include Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s 1934 race) and Why Obama Won. He also blogs daily at Pressing Issues.