Is Barack Obama a socialist? A Muslim? Anti-American? Pro-Palestinian? Or just a man who is right sometimes and wrong most of the time? Bill O'Reilly opts for the second option in his new book, "Pinheads and Patriots."
Bill rigorously focuses on what President Obama does, not on who he is. He refuses to speculate about motivation, preferring instead the more solid ground of observing and frequently condemning his policies. The whole is never larger than the sum of its parts in O'Reilly's book. In fact, they're not really added up at all.
In a world fraught with invective, Bill focuses instead on programs, statistics and facts. Abjuring adjectives, he speaks only in nouns and verbs.
This style is refreshing in the world of national politics where any conservative is a "sellout" and any liberal a "socialist." He takes Obama's patriotic motivation for granted and proceeds to dissect his policies with precision and incisive commentary.
But, somehow, the mind still gropes with the central question about Barack Obama: Who is he? As one reads his book, you have to wonder whether Obama is mistaken or malign. Is he simplistic or socialist? An idiot or an ideologue?
As you study President Obama, you keep coming back to these basic questions. Did he really think that his stimulus spending would end the recession despite the failure of the George W. Bush stimulus of 2008 and the Japanese Lost Decade of similar economic policies? Or did he want to expand the public sector at all costs and seized this opportunity to do so?
Did he ever really believe he could lower health care costs through his legislation, or was he just saying that to socialize medicine in America?
Does he truly think he can win hearts and minds in the Islamic world, or is he just anti-Israel?
Is he overly concerned with the details of his version of our civil liberties, or is he not mindful of the jeopardy we face?
Because he inherently does not believe he can judge motivation, especially at a distance, O'Reilly presumes the best about the president's motivations and just criticizes his policies. He questions Obama's judgment, but never his good faith. He lambasts the president's management style, but never his core beliefs.
But then he does not take the inevitable next step and call into sharper question the man's intellect and ability. After all, the alternative explanation -- that he's dumb -- lacks credibility. Barack Obama pulled off one of the major political miracles of our time. He swept into the presidency after only four years as a U.S. senator -- two, really, since he campaigned the other two. He upended the major political machine in the Democratic Party to get the nomination and outmaneuvered the Republican attack armies to win in November. And he swept into office a record number of Democratic acolytes. Such achievements do not stem from stupidity.
And, until he was brought up short in the 2010 elections, he was well on his way to transforming our nation. He had dug us into so large a pit of debt that new taxes seemed inevitable. His health care program had taken over one-sixth of the economy, and his big spending had increased the public sector share of our economy from 35 percent to 45 percent in just two years.
The intellect behind these accomplishments must be staggering. But, if so, the mendacity must be, as well.
O'Reilly's critique of Obama is one of the sharpest and most well argued ever written. But, somehow, it still begs the basic question: Is Obama on our side after all?