Obama’s scolded for picking Larry Summers; Abe Foxman’s scolded for picking at Bill Moyers


Bill Moyers talks with two Times reporters last September about Wall Street’s meltdown.

Almost lost amid the usual knee-jerk preaching to the choir that is the 21st century Nation are a couple of excellent stories — one of them scolds Barack Obama for relying on such dubious characters as economist/erstwhile Harvard prexy Larry Summers, and the other roasts Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.

In “Never Say You’re Sorry,” Christopher Hayes points out the clay feats of Obama economic-world appointees Summers and Gary Gensler.

In “The Defamation League,” Eric Alterman takes Foxman to task for the latter’s astonishing blast at Bill Moyers, who had the audacity to suggest that Palestinians are people, too. (See Foxman’s rip and Moyers’s response.)

Really juicy in Alterman’s piece is this passage:

What’s more, the defamation of Moyers escalated further. Following Foxman’s fusillade, New York Times neocon William Kristol inserted in a regular column–yet another devoted as usual to the majesty of George W. Bush‘s leadership–an attack on Moyers for allegedly “lambast[ing] Israel for what he called its ‘state terrorism,’ its ‘waging war on an entire population’ in Gaza.” Like Foxman, Kristol also implied that Moyers was guilty of racism.

Again, read the text of Moyers’s remarks. Neither Kristol nor Foxman notes his stated belief that “every nation has the right to defend its people. Israel is no exception, all the more so because Hamas would like to see every Jew in Israel dead,” or his deep concern about the growth of “a radical stream of Islam [that] now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.”

Yet despite the fact that Bill Moyers is, well, Bill Moyers, the Times editors not only allowed Kristol to deliberately distort and decontextualize his remarks; they would not allow Moyers to defend himself in his own words in response. After the PBS journalist submitted a letter to the editor, he was told, “We will not print that ‘William Kristol distorts or misrepresents,’ and the editors will not budge.” They insisted that the letter be changed for publication to read, “I take strong exception to William Kristol’s characterization,” and they truncated much else.

Hmmm…Kristol has exited the Times‘s op-ed page. He probably wanted to pursue other opportunities.

Hayes’s lively piece on Obama’s appointees even throws in a couple of apt sports metaphors. More importantly, Hayes dredges up some valuable history regarding both Gensler and Summers.

In doing so, he doesn’t spare the Clinton Administration from its disastrous destruction of the Glass-Steagall Act, a strict banking law from the last Depression that, had it remained in place, would probably have prevented Wall Street from creating the current Depression.

I’ve harangued about Glass-Steagall’s repeal many times, but Betsy L. Angert said it more gracefully in an item last year:

Softly swayed by seemingly selfless actions, those charmed by the Clinton charisma do not recall that the Clintons helped to create the financial debacle the electorate now experiences. An audience content with celebrity, dazzled by a drama, and grateful for fiscal favors sees no reason to reflect upon what might have been had the Clintons not repealed the Glass-Steagall and Bank Holding Company Acts.

Also see Frontline‘s “The Long Demise of Glass-Steagall.”