Obama Stained By O’Reilly Proximity

Bill O'ReillyDave Weigel wrote a very good article over at Slate today, Bill O’Reilly, Asking the Wrong #Benghazi Questions. In it, he goes over why conservatives are so focused on exactly what the administration said about the attack. Bottom line: they have a very simplistic take on the attack. In reality, a number of things led to the attack, and the very first thing was anger about the video. But in the right wing media, there is no room for nuance. It was either entirely about the video, or there was an administration cover up. This is indicative of a level of intellectual immaturity that ought to shock the nation. But instead, it is business as usual.

O’Reilly went into the interview thinking he was going to blow the lid off the conspiracy by getting to the bottom of what the very first thing Secretary Panetta told him. It’s just pathetic. But no one bats an eye. It’s just to be expected even though it was just slightly less ridiculous than Alex Jones asking the president when he’s going to send in the black helicopters. Of course, O’Reilly had similarly “clever” traps set regarding Obamacare and the IRS non-scandal, where he pressed the long debunked talking point about the IRS chief bing “cleared into the White House 157 times.” Somehow, this is all acceptable.

Obama CopeBill O’Reilly is often called out for his bad journalism. This is because he wants to be accepted in polite company. He wants to be allowed on The Daily Show. So his argument is that he’s just an entertainer—just a clown. And that he’s not a hard news guy; he’s an opinion guy. The rules are different for him and Hannity. But when it is the turn of Fox News to do the pre-Super Bowl interview with the president, no “hard news guy” is available and so they send in the clown. Funny that.

I should be clear: I think we as a nation show far too much deference to the president. So I don’t have a problem with a reporter being direct and asking tough and tenacious questions. I was, for example, thrilled with Carole Coleman’s interview with Bush the Younger. I would argue that what O’Reilly has now done twice is not that. The whole point of his interviews seems to be to signal to his audience his disdain for the president. But regardless what he’s trying to do, O’Reilly would certainly be against it if anyone were doing the same thing to a Republican president. (And yes, I am well aware that O’Reilly claims to be independent. He also claims to be pro-choice. He flatters himself that he is something other than a right wing ideologue. He isn’t.)

But what I really don’t understand is why President Obama agreed to do the interview. It isn’t like pre-Super Bowl interviews are required in the Constitution. I understand that Obama has nothing to worry about being interviewed by a mediocrity like Bill O’Reilly. And Obama did indeed destroy the angry pundit. But it soils the office to have someone like O’Reilly get to do his interruption and innuendo infused interview. There is no way that the president can be that close to the intellectual filth that is at the center of Fox News without being soiled himself. An interview with Bret Baier or Chris Wallace would be okay, I suppose. But Fox News has said what they think of the president by allowing a joke pundit to interview him. I don’t see why the White House is okay with that.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Obama Stained By O’Reilly Proximity

  1. There’s one reason for the right-wing obsession with this, and only one. Branding.

    According to branding, Democrats are lily-livered about national defense. When they raise the Pentagon’s insane budget, they are pretending to be patriots. Only Republicans truly honor our boys in blue (or whatever color they wear.)

    Unfortunately for branding, the crazy people’s successful attacks on New York and Washington happened during a Republican administration. Republicans have insisted, for three straight elections, that more attacks on America will happen if they aren’t in charge of the office Oval. The first time they tried this argument, it worked.

    It’s vital that they paint a Democratic administration as being "soft on terrorism." Otherwise half of their brand goes immediately kaput. In much the same way that the Affordable Care Act has to be, just has to be, a "government takeover of health care," when it’s nothing remotely of the sort, alas.

    There’s an old story, I don’t know if it’s true, about Clinton’s first days in office. Supposedly, he toured an aircraft carrier, and sailors on a nearby ship put mops on their heads and assumed effeminate stances, mocking Clinton’s campaign pledge to end anti-gay discrimination in the military.

    Frankly, it sounds true. I was in military school in 1996-1997 and we were taught the Uniform Code Of Military Justice, the set of rules our military swears by in order to be validated in punishing Japanese/German officers after WWII. It’s also the reason Chelsea/Bradley Manning had no chance; the UCOMJ does not use regular rules. It does, as Manning well knew, condemn "illegal orders," the excuse we used to prosecute those Japanese/German officers. Because we won, and so our firebombings were not illegal. The Holocaust and Rape of Nanking were illegal. That’s how justice works.

    Manning took too seriously the injunction against "illegal orders," and believed they should be outed as such. Nonsense. TUCOMJ has always been a butt-covering piece of paperwork. Was in 1950, is today.

    And, when I was in military school, our instructors heavily stressed (without precisely saying as much, that would break the rules) that "illegal orders" applied more to Clinton, that fag-lover, than they did, just as an example, to things like genocide.

    Seriously. Clinton was a worse violator of "illegal orders" than Tojo or Himmler. Because gays. And because Democrat, and not Reagan. Less money for MX missiles=Weak On Defense. Branding. This much I know was part of military culture in 96-97, because I was there.

    If the story about Clinton and the sailors is true, than Bill boned it. He should have immediately fired all the Joint Chiefs, fired the master of that vessel, and assigned it to permanent active wartime duty, with no possibility of shore leave, until every single person in the Navy got exactly what it means to fuck with the civilian commander of our armed forces.

    Maybe the story isn’t true. It sounds true to my experience. And, even if it isn’t, Democrats have long since lost control over our military. Perhaps they’ve regained some now, as the military is high in minority enrollment and possibly Black soldiers don’t put up with officers hinting that Obama isn’t fit for leadership, the way officers did about Clinton in my day.

    Certainly Obama’s killed enough foreigners for no reason to qualify as a macho military leader. But, you know — Benghazi.

  2. @JMF – The Republican brand isn’t "strong" though; it is "belligerent." I see this a lot in its appeal to young men. It isn’t enough to [i]be[/i] a badass, you have to talk like one. Or rather talk like some rap stereotype. I first remember seeing this during Reagan’s administration. Someone had noted that we no longer went by the saying, "Walk soft and carry a big stick." (Not that this was ever really true.) Under Reagan it was, "Get in everyone’s face and carry a big stick." Democrats and Republicans alike believe in the big stick. But only the Republican Party wants the nation to act like an adolescent bully.

    I tend to think that story is not true. I remember when Clinton was running for president, a lot of conservative commentators talked about how the military wouldn’t respect him as Commander in Chief. But not much happened, because the military is by necessity well disciplined. But the military is in general about 2/3 Republican. Again, I would expect that and I think it is an indictment of the Republican Party. Soldiers don’t tend that direction because the Republicans are best on funding. They tend that way because the young men who make up the military have too many hormones and too few brains–just like young men everywhere.

  3. "Just like young men everywhere." That’s a very fair way of putting it. My time in military school reminds me of your 95/5 ratio. Most people, even 22 year-olds drunk with power at being made "officers," were basically decent. A little bit asshole, we all can be, but not bad once you got to know them.

    There were some serious monsters, who I’m sure were badly fucked-up people. What made it a psychotic institution wasn’t the 5% monsters; it was the 95% covering for those monsters. We had a cadet who got raped by a student officer. The cadet made the ultimate mistake; he went to the police. He went outside the school. If he’d kept his complaints within the school, he probably would have been fast-tracked to any position he wanted. Nope, he broke the code. Instead of just getting reassigned to a different dorm outside the perp’s control, and everything being hush-hush, the police got involved, found a "he said/he said" story, and couldn’t prosecute. So the poor cadet stayed in our dorm, and got stared down every day during room inspection by this fucked/broken sick person. Until the cadet quit.

    Thing is, everybody hated that student officer. All of us did. Other student officers would jokingly say, when they were meting out the pointless discipline common to all of our military organizations, that we should be grateful it wasn’t That Guy. He was a disturbed, bad egg, we all knew it.

    And everybody liked the cadet. He was funny and kind. You put people through boot camp, you find what they’re about. (I’m a loyal friend, but a total coward, for instance.) The cadet was not a coward, and he didn’t turd on others to improve his standing with the mean officers. That’s about as cool as you get.

    Once he went out of the school to report sexual assault . . . everything changed. You couldn’t look at him square in the eye. That would mean you were some kind of homo. And the student officer actually gained respect. Because he’d kept his mouth shut, and everyone knew what he was capable of.

    A few years back, I visited Denmark, and met sailors in the Danish navy. Who do useful things like patrol shipping lanes and keep pirates from shooting up commercial vessels. The attitude, compared to our military, was night-and-day. They basically regarded it as a good civil-service job, exactly what the military should be. (They’re also paid quite well; our military pays shit for enlisted personnel, unless they’re in a war zone.) I got to tour the most high-tech, newest, expensive stealth destroyer Denmark has (it was pretty slick) and there was zero batshit macho nonsense. Girl and boy sailors both just acted like, "hey, cool fucking boat, check it out." It was like firemen showing off the new fire engine.

    Having an empire is just toxic. It makes us insane. It seeps down into every level of our society; and it seeps down into the military first. National defense is hugely important, like parking meters and post offices are. Our military should not be corrupted by utter lunacy. Because we’re running an empire, it is.

    David Graeber makes the point that people who join the military or get involved with their local church are, largely, people who want to do more with their lives than be self-serving. And what options do you have to be other than self-serving if you’re poor? Rich kids can get internships in hugely expensive cities like New York or San Fran with global NGOs. If you’re poor, it’s the military or the church. 95% of these people want to contribute to society, and we funnel them into borderline worthless outlets. What a waste of potential talent.

  4. @JMF – There is a natural tendency to assume is someone got raped, it was just a misunderstanding. And in this case, the end result is that the cadet was seen as weak and feminine. Conservatives want to believe that "legitimate" rape is only the result of crazy men who hide in bushes. To admit more would be to admit that something has to be done. I’m not questioning your analysis, just adding to it.

    I think the main reason that empires fall is that as they get bigger, more and more resources have to be used to just to maintain it. It’s like juggling. With three balls, even I can be creative. With six balls, even the best juggler has to concentrate entirely on keeping the balls in the air. It’s the same reason that big companies don’t innovate. If they are smart, they acquire small companies. Or look at the Republican Party: they can’t broaden their appeal because they are afraid of losing the voters they have. You can only do that so long. One way or another, you will lose.

    America is most clearly on its way down. We keep using little tricks to keep us on top. But we aren’t investing in what we need to in order to continue to develop. But it is one thing when the vast majority of people are getting nothing from meager improvements. When the pie starts getting smaller and the rich insist upon still getting richer, that’s when revolutions happen. I’d say that is a word to the wise, but the rich are not wise.

  5. I don’t understand Benghazi. I know what the IRS ‘scandal’ is about, and why it’s false. But what did it matter then or now whether ‘terror/ist/ism’ was used to describe the incident? Perhaps, to continue the nautical theme, Bill has a theory about who has been stealing the strawberries. Because that’s all I hear when they go on about it.

  6. @Lawrence – Hold on there cowboy! I think I have to defend Queeg who is a sympathetic character whose insanity is hard earned. O’Reilly has no such excuse. And, in fact, he isn’t crazy. He’s just an asshole with anger management issues who knows how to appeal to his angry audience. I know that wasn’t your point, but any reason to talk about [i]The Caine Mutiny[/i], right? I love this scene; it breaks my heart:


    I recommend reading Weigel’s article, because he goes into why conservatives are so hung up on this issue. I would put it this way: most conservatives are chick hawks. So in their minds, the only way there would be confusion about the cause of the attack is that the White House was trying to cover it up. When the NYT reported on how complicated the situation was, the conservatives didn’t notice. They don’t read the NYT. But the truth is that O’Reilly [i]must[/i] know that there was nothing to his allegations. He was just playing to his audience. They wanted to see him "get tough" on Obama, and so he did.

    The 157 visits is even a better example. As I discussed in the link, after it was first reported, he [i]did[/i] get the correct information. That was 8 months ago. He can’t have forgotten. It was just something easy to club Obama with.

  7. @Lawrence — I think it’s what I mentioned in an above post, branding. Republicans have to be stronger on national defense than Democrats; that’s an essential part of their brand, like being in favor of the little guy against the big elites. (Even though they are totally in favor of the big elites over the little guy; doesn’t matter, the brand is what does.)

    Benghazi was a horrible failure of the Obama administration to take care of its diplomatic employees. That’s awful. The crazies bombing New York and Washington were identified, by FBI agents, as taking classes about flying airplanes but not about landing planes. Nobody in the Bush administration gave a crap about this. The CIA tried over and over to report that they had intelligence about a pending major attack on American targets, and nobody in the Bush administration gave a crap about this.

    This stuff is often taken, by the conspiracy theorists, as proof that the Bush administration engineered the crazy attacks. They didn’t. They were a million miles from ever being that clever. Were they horrible at national security? You bet your butt they were. What competence would you expect Bush and Cheney to have? They were both oil babies. Oil comes out of the ground, in those days you didn’t have to frack to find it. The Bush family tried assigning George to different jobs; he failed pathetically at all of them.

    It’s essential for Bill O’ to paint Democrats as "weak on defense." It’s the brand! So, Benghazi, a fatal fuckup, has to be worse than the crazies attacking New York and Washington — a far more calamitous fuckup. It makes no sense, but that’s what passes for political discussion in our country.

  8. I do love that movie. It’s a testament to the power of actors. Bogart is so brilliant, and I’d add Jose Ferrer, too. I missed Lawrence’s strawberries reference, because I haven’t seen that movie in 20 years. But I remember it vividly. Bogart will do that to ya.

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