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George Will: Liar or Moron?

George W. Bush and his US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick are, as those of us who've been paying attention know, not very enthusiastic about free trade. Hence the import restrictions on bras, socks, steel, shrimp, etc., the increased farm subsidies, and the Australia "free trade" agreement that is, in fact, an effort to extend US intellectual property law to the land down under. Zoellick, in an unusual move other Bush administration officials may want to consider emulating, chooses in an interview with George Will, not to lie about this record. Zoellick is a mercantilist. His agricultural policy goal, rightly described as a herculean task, is "Prying open 147 economies at once" in order to boost exports. As Zoellick says, "How much can we eat? The markets have got to be abroad." He tells Will that his "aim is to insinuate 'some Hamiltonian concepts' into U.S. foreign policy." Hamilton being, of course, the leading mercantilist politician of the Founding era, a role in which he was followed by Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln while being opposed by politicians in the Jefferson-Jackson tradition.

Will, however, writes this up as a column headlined "A Fighter For Free Trade" and ends by condemning John Kerry for offering "protectionism with an uneasy conscience." So here's the question: Does George Will, allegedly the intellectual among rightwing pundits, really not understand what a "Hamiltonian" trade policy consists of? This is not really an obscure moment in American political history, but rather, alongside slavery, the crucial issue of 19th century politics. Is he really unaware of the Bush administration's trade record? Is he some kind of fool? Or is he trying to mislead his readers?

August 15, 2004 | Permalink


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» History Lesson from Julie Saltman
Yglesias really says it all, so I'll refrain from giving a detailed history lesson on the politics of the early Republic as much as that pains me. But I will point out one juicy detail. The Bushies have definitely taken a page from Hamilton's book in... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 15, 2004 11:48:09 AM

» George Will is a Liar from Bloodless Coup
That's my response to Matt Yglesias's question. I mean there can be no question that Will's a liar, right? Matt gives but a few of the instances of this administration's mercantilist policies. That Will reports that this administration supports free... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 15, 2004 12:58:06 PM

» George Will and free trade from The Liferaft of Love
In his latest, George Will champions free trade by honoring someone who's worked hard to defeat it. The details ... go read this guy, he'll outline the whole thing. Two paragraphs caught my eye, however. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 15, 2004 3:24:03 PM

» Mutually Inclusive from BAD ATTITUDES
Good catch by Matt Yglesias — see “George Will: Liar or Moron?” (Although I don’t see why it has to be an either/or proposition.)... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 15, 2004 10:57:16 PM

» Matthew Yglesias Asks a False Question from Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal (2004)
Matthew Yglesias bangs his head against the wall as he reads George Will. He then poses a false question. Matthew, it's not either/or, it is both/and: matthew: George Will: Liar or Moron?: George W. Bush and his US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick ... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 16, 2004 3:31:17 PM


Maybe I'm just a soft touch, but I think he's a moron.

Posted by: maha | Aug 15, 2004 10:46:14 AM

It is possible he could be both.

Posted by: jj whodat | Aug 15, 2004 10:49:58 AM

Option 3: Whacked out on goofballs.

Posted by: whopundit | Aug 15, 2004 10:52:10 AM

I'm perfectly willing to believe that Bush, Will, Cheney, and all their friends are liars, but I don't know much about "Hamiltonian Trade Policy". Against the slim chance that I get my own punditry, you ought to provide some details. Maybe George Will is reading, too.

Posted by: dr2chase | Aug 15, 2004 10:58:17 AM

Sorry Matt"intellectual among rightwing pundits,"is a contradiction in terms.

Posted by: Ron In Portland | Aug 15, 2004 10:58:19 AM

We plebians did not get a high falutin' edumacation. Please, Matt, enlighten us on what exactly a Haliltonica Trade policy is

Posted by: noone | Aug 15, 2004 11:17:54 AM

I realised long ago that George Will's schtick is to take some common prejudice or mis-information and dress it up in pseudo-intellectual clothes. Thus he renders two services to the reader- he confirms his (or her) prejudices and makes him feel smart. He has never veered from this pattern.

Posted by: Mooser | Aug 15, 2004 11:21:03 AM

Generally, I don't think that columnist choose their headlines. What Will is responsible for is quoting Kerry's line about appointing 'a U.S. Trade Representative who is an American patriot' out of context. It isn't a slur against Zoellick, but a 'yes, but' preamble to attacking Dean for protectionism. http://www.cfr.org/campaign2004/pub6282/john_kerry/address_to_the_detroit_economic_club.php?issue=9

Posted by: Mike | Aug 15, 2004 11:22:01 AM

Is he some kind of fool? Or is he trying to mislead his readers?

I vote for both. After all, he is lying in the service of GWB. What could be more foolish than that?

Posted by: exgop | Aug 15, 2004 11:23:46 AM

Matt made it pretty clear what a mercantilist does. You don't want free trade, you just want to sell stuff and make money.

Posted by: Tim H. | Aug 15, 2004 11:34:40 AM

The guy who secretly coached Reagan for a debate with Carter using Carter's stolen briefing book, and then declared Reagan the winner in his column and on TV as ABC commentator, pretending that he'd never heard Reagan's answers before?

Hmm, idiot or liar? Definitely liar, hypocrite and slimeball. But probably not a complete fool.

Posted by: abb1 | Aug 15, 2004 11:39:32 AM

Paste the link below in your browser and read (for those who are having trouble wrapping their heads around "hamiltonian.")


Posted by: Fr33d0m | Aug 15, 2004 11:44:34 AM

I always figured that this administration was actually following a Halliburtian trade policy more than a Hamiltonian one.

Posted by: Ray Radlein | Aug 15, 2004 11:57:25 AM

>George Will: Liar or Moron?

Silly question. The answer is yes.

Posted by: raj | Aug 15, 2004 12:17:47 PM

No, no, liar and moron!

Posted by: W. Kiernan | Aug 15, 2004 12:27:24 PM

As abb1 points out, Will is a despicable con-man. A huckster. A liar. Not much different than the race track confidence man.

So yes, I'd say he is out to intentionally deceive. As Bush says: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, and, er, you can't fool me again.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Aug 15, 2004 12:30:16 PM

I deleted my first comment here, which was partly about MY exaggerating Bush's protectionism. My second paragraph was about Hamilton just being in fashion among the Right, based in the recent biography. I suspect that while Democrats like to compare 2000 to 1876, Republicans can compare 2000 to 1800, and equate Democrats to the despicable traitor Aaron Burr. The actual substance of Hamilton would be less important than the symbolism.

But then I saw the direct quotes from Zoelick which mention Hamilton, and got confused. Bush is not mercantilist, nor likely to become so.

So perhaps it is some aggregate of Hamilton's other ideas and policies they find attractive, and it is general administration spin to mention his name a lot. A founding father who wanted a very strong executive, for instance, as a justification for greater Presidential power.

Matt should perhaps be less worried about steel tariffs and more concerned about King George.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 15, 2004 12:42:43 PM

The paradox of modern conservative Republicans is that they want a strong president with regard to foreign policy, but weak domestically. In a democracy that is just not possible.

Posted by: epistemology | Aug 15, 2004 1:08:23 PM

I'm assuming that many people who are here know this, but I'll type this crap for those who don't.
For all who are unfamiliar with the term mercantilist, it is a term coined by Adam Smith, to describe those who feel the most important action to be taken in a trade situation is to have a higher amount of exports than imports, basically in regards to ALL goods. Smith and David Ricardo basically disproved this notion with the concept of comparative advantage, where, for example, France can grow more grapes that the US, the US can grow more wheat than France. Thus it is more advantageous for the US to grow less grapes, and to make up that deficit by growing more wheat. Blah, blah, blah....sorry for that, but that's how it is.

Posted by: Mike | Aug 15, 2004 1:37:18 PM

To answer your question, read the excellent running series by Matthew Yglesias, "Hack Gap."

Posted by: praktike | Aug 15, 2004 1:45:59 PM

George Will is in no stretch of the imagination a moron. He no doubt has intellect. But to call Will a liar is akin to calling a prostitute a copulater.

George Will is the premier intellectual prostitute of our times and "lying" to and for his Johns simply goes with the job description.

Ever So Sincerely,

Posted by: Michael Leo Lively | Aug 15, 2004 2:08:38 PM

George Will is so irrelevant within the Republican party that only Democrats care about what he says or writes.

Posted by: Tom | Aug 15, 2004 2:35:05 PM

The Bushies did not grant any quota extensions for socks. Just bras and nightgowns.

Posted by: ayelish | Aug 15, 2004 3:00:17 PM

Reading the column: Will's implication that the Bush admin has been pro-free-trade, instead of merely favoring the interests of corporartions that contribute to his campaigns, had me leaning towards "liar".

But citing Hamilton as an avatar of free trade is a monumental howler (recall, Will supposedly studied history at Oxford) that trumps the rather standard-issue hackery. So he's an idiot and a liar, but in this case, much more idiot than liar.

Posted by: son volt | Aug 15, 2004 3:01:19 PM

Tom's got a point -- Will really is pretty irrelevant to the current party. Maybe he's trying to curry favor?

Posted by: Kimmitt | Aug 15, 2004 3:03:41 PM

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