Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Hugs and Cuddle Zone

Bill O'Reilly is a hard man to pin down. He's disarmingly calm and persuasive one moment, and screaming like a goat on fire the next. The targets of his occasional wrath certainly have it coming, like the day he laid it down most royally on Congressman Barney Frank. Frank had received over $40,000 in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and fought against proper oversight of these committees, claiming they were stable entities free of financial duress, and dismissed rumours of the companies' excessive "non-traditional" loan practices. After the 2008 collapse of the housing market, O'Reilly lambasted Frank for his ties to Fannie and Freddie, and the Congressman's disingenuous remarks that he had been at the forefront of those warning against an unsustainable housing market. Frank was lying and O'Reilly was having none of it. It was an epic confrontation.

O'Reilly has also managed to have judges who have shown leniency toward pedophiles thrown off the bench, and has forced universities and colleges to dismiss radical left-wing professors. Lately, however, O'Reilly has been falling out of favour with many conservatives. Many feel that his famous "No Spin Zone" has gone soft, and that O'Reilly has dialed it down to attract high profile guests. He was surprisingly kid-gloved with then-Senators Clinton and Obama during the 2008 election campaign. Everyone wanted him to be fair, but he avoided asking any tough substantive questions. In 2009 he proclaimed it was too early to tell if the President's monstrous stimulus bill was a bad idea. Surely someone as politically engaged as O'Reilly knows that massive government spending projects filled with funding for all kinds of left-wing nuttery are bound to be dismal failures.

Again, some could argue that O'Reilly is toning down his caustic style to attract more high profile guests. Since Bill has become more huggable, everyone from John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, even the President himself has made appearances on his show. There was a time when it would have seemed inconceivable that any of these folks would have stepped anywhere near the set of 'Factor'; now they seem to be cutting line to get face time with papa bear.

In fairness, O'Reilly has always pointed out that he's not a lacky for any political party or philosophy. He seems to define himself as a no nonsense, right of center everyman who serves as a watch guard against the liberal mainstream media - but O'Reilly's cautionary finger-wagging over the tone of the recent CPAC convention was truly bizarre.

On last Thursday's 'Factor', O'Reilly accused the CPAC participants of "attacking the President" instead of "attacking his policies". I can't wrap my head around just what O'Reilly found so distasteful. The CPAC convention was a very well organized conservative pep rally with an impressive guest list. There were a few good natured jabs at the President's declining popularity, but no one was calling for an armed insurrection.

He later went bellyaching to Laura Ingram that the GOP should accept the President's offer to meet to discuss new ideas for health care. Has Bill gone off the reservation? How many times has the GOP been lured into Obama's den, leaving with promises of milk and honey, only to be bushwhacked by Senator Reid's steamroller? Killing Obamacare was one of the greatest legislative triumphs of the last decade. Nobody wants health care reform. Maybe Americans would like less onerous regulations and the right to buy insurance out of state, but no one wants to revisit this issue. As Ingram sagely noted, "Why would I want to re-litigate a court case I had already won?" That sounds logical enough to me, yet O'Reilly seems insistent on re-igniting a debate that came very close turning the greatest nation on earth into some sort of quasi-socialist basket case.

Nothing good can come from accepting the President's offer to continue the debate on health care. It reminds me of the scene in Gladiator when Maximus is persuaded by Lucilla and Senator Gracchus to break out of jail and join his waiting army, only to be thwarted by Commodus. Cicero ends up with a belly full of arrows and Proximo gets a back full of swords at the hands of the Praetorian guards.

The most glaring disservice Bill has done to the conservative movement with his inane criticism of the CPAC conference is that it has given ample ammunition to the mainstream media he purports to despise. Now buffoons like Anderson Cooper can say "Even Bill O'Reilly thinks the right has gone too far."

There are legitimate concerns about the grassroots movement that has sprung up across the country. The tea party movements - which I think are healthy and productive in energizing the conservative base - have been attracting the Ron Paul lunatic fringe of the libertarian wing. They make up a small but vocal faction, and serve as easy targets for the media, who are desperately trying to discredit the GOP's resurrection.

Bill O'Reilly is entertaining, and it's good fun watching him eviscerate pedophile apologists and radical leftists - but nobody likes pedophiles or left wing whack jobs. Maybe he's making way for the talented and energetic Glenn Beck to take over his time slot, or maybe he's seeing something we're all missing. Whatever the reason, if he continues to show those strange 5 minute montages of the celebrities he's interviewed over the years, there may be more than a few viewers who decide to rotate the channel away from the "No Spin Zone".



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