O’Reilly Versus Will, and Healey’s First Law of Holes

Regarding the ongoing feud between George Will and Bill O’Reilly, it is evident that O’Reilly has never heard of Healey’s First Law of Holes (coined by the British politician Denis Healey), which runs: “If you’re in one—stop digging.”

O’Reilly lost no time in responding to Will’s latest column dismantling Killing Reagan, released yesterday afternoon. It is interesting that, just as he did with his on-air response to the Washington Post piece I co-authored, O’Reilly won’t mention Will by name. And yet he keeps digging himself a deeper hole. Aside from O’Reilly’s prevarications, it is clear that he is changing his tune without admitting it, by now claiming that the book is laudatory toward Reagan.

Craig Shirley’s fine research assistant (and one of my former students) Borko Komnenovic passes along this glaring contradiction in O’Reilly’s evolving defense:

O’Reilly, November 10:

So it is beyond a reasonable doubt that the meeting of March 2, 1987 did occur. And it is also a hard fact that Howard Baker purposely scrutinized Ronald Reagan’s every movement at that meeting, searching for signs of mental and physical dissipation. However, as we write in Killing Reagan the president turned that meeting into a triumph. He demonstrated to Baker and his other advisors that he was totally in command of important issues.

O’Reilly, September 28:

Well, the centerpiece of the book is the meeting that Reagan’s advisers held with James Cannon, who was commissioned to investigate Reagan, and whether he was still up to the job. This was in his second term as he kind of went downhill. That is just a fascinating thing that he was almost removed because he sometimes couldn’t do the job.

I’ll add one new thought to this current round of the battle: O’Reilly says he wouldn’t want to credit people like George Shultz, Jim Baker, Ed Meese, or Colin Powell because they have “skin in the game.” But it never seems to occur to O’Reilly that the sources of the story that Reagan was “out of it” and might need to be dismissed as president for incapacity came from people who had a lot of skin in the game—namely, the ousted aides of fired chief of staff Don Regan. That’s where these stories originated, and simply repeating the way leftist journalists like Jane Mayer used them in 1988 doesn’t make them any truer. If O’Reilly were serious about discounting the views of people with “skin in the game. . .”

Oh sorry, right. You really can’t write a sentence that begins “If O’Reilly were serious. . .”


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