Niall Ferguson’s recent Newsweek piece, which convincingly and dispassionately argues why the country ought not re-elect Barack Obama, has really irritated the liberal cognescenti. So much so, that progressive patron saint Paul Krugman took time from his summer vacation to lambast Ferguson for “multiple errors and misrepresentations” and to accuse him of presenting “unethical commentary.” What really is telling is that Krugman could only come up with one, not multiple, objections, which Ferguson roundly blows out of the water. Ferguson then concludes his rebuttal by suggesting that Krugman read “a wee bit more carefully before his conscience next starts blogging.”
Put simply, Krugman did not do his homework, an accusation Krugman often makes against his own political opponents. In essence, Mr. Ferguson artfully outsnarked the leading and most annoying progressive snark. Hear hear, Mr. Ferguson!
Ferguson then goes one step further and demolishes the way his liberal critics have responded to his intelligent and well-argued piece:
“My critics have three things in common. First, they wholly fail to respond to the central arguments of the piece. Second, they claim to be engaged in ‘fact checking,’ whereas in nearly all cases they are merely offering alternative (often silly or skewed) interpretations of the facts. Third, they adopt a tone of outrage that would be appropriate only if I had argued that, say, women’s bodies can somehow prevent pregnancies in case of ‘legitimate rape.'”
The level of push back against Ferguson’s argument is telling. If the debate shifts back to the state of the economy, Americans may rightly conclude that President Obama’s economic stewardship has been less than adequate. Even worse, Ferguson is a tenured Harvard professor, which conflicts with the liberal world view that all conservatives are stupid, religious quacks. The furor has reached such an irrational fever pitch that bloggers are not only demanding that Newsweek fire Ferguson, but also that Harvard University should do the same. As Ferguson put it:
“The icing on the cake has been the attempt by some bloggers to demand that I be sacked not just by Newsweek but also by Harvard University, where I am a tenured professor. It is especially piquant to read these demands from people who would presumably defend academic freedom in the last ditch—provided it is the freedom to publish opinions in line with their own ideology.”
Frankly, this reaction is completely out of proportion to what Mr. Ferguson argued in his piece. While I do not agree with his conclusions on President Obama’s foreign policy, I think he is spot on with his economic analysis. Moreover, I think it is refreshing to finally see a high-profile magazine provide a conservative intellectual with a platform to present his views. Apparently, many on the left do not. They’d rather argue that all conservatives secretly believe in Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” theory, which is about as ridiculous as the argument that all liberals secretly want to install a communist dictatorship.
In the end, the left’s hyperbolic response to a legitimate piece about the most important issues facing the United States is sad. The country should be debating these issues. Voters should be using objective statistics to assess the president’s economic performance (or lack thereof). Instead, we have LZ Granderson focusing on how most conservatives want to ban abortions in the case of “forcible” rape (as opposed to “regular” rape, of course), and the Vice President of the United States engaging in shameless race-baiting.
Our country is rapidly losing focus on what’s important, and the vilification of a prominent conservative academic is a case in point.
Fight on, Mr. Ferguson. Fight on.