Michael Gaynor
O'Reilly's Super Bowl day interview of Obama: wasted opportunity
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By Michael Gaynor
February 8, 2011

O'Reilly played Obama cheerleader and Obama was grateful.

Bill O'Reilly's interview of President Obama on Super Bowl Sunday (http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/06/transcript-of-president-obamas-pre-super-bowl-interview-with-bi/), unlikely to live up to the hype, was disappointing.

O'Reilly had written before the interview (http://www.billoreilly.com/site/rd?satype=13&said=12&url=%2Fnewslettercolumn%3Fpid%3D31091) that it was "fraught with danger" for him, because he had to be deferential and Obama "is an eloquent man [who] can easily run out the clock if he wants to" and "there's nowhere to hide if things don't go well" because the interview would be live.

O'Reilly played it VERY deferential. Yes, he interrupted Obama many times, because that's his style. But O'Reilly played Obama cheerleader and Obama was grateful.

OBAMA: ...My practical focus, my common-sense focus right now is how to we out-innovate, out-educate, out-building, out-compete the rest of the world? How do we create jobs here in the United States of America? How do we make sure that businesses are thriving? But how do we also — making sure that ordinary Americans can live out the American dream?

O'REILLY: Listen, I hope you can do it.

OBAMA: Because right now, they don't feel like they are.

O'REILLY: I hope you can do it.

OBAMA: I know you do.

How sweet.

The interview took place in the White House and O'Reilly behaved as though a Secret Service agent would shoot him if he strongly challenged Obama.

The interview had a 15-minute time limit, so there was no time to waste.

O'Reilly wasted precious time, and Obama took full advantage of O'Reilly's unctuousness.

O'Reilly began by thanking Obama for assisting two Fox News employees (reporter Greg Palkot and cameraman Olaf Wiig) who had been beaten in Egypt while covering the protest against the Mubarak administration.

That tone-setting thank you wasted time and made Obama seem like an action hero.

Obama accepts high praise graciously as well as how to run out the clock (just in case O'Reilly might man up and ask a tough question or challenge an answer as dishonest).

"Those guys showed enormous courage, as so many journalists do around the world," Obama said of the two Fox News employees "And so not only was it important for us to make sure they were safe, for them and their families, but to uphold the basic principle of free speech and freedom of the press. That's a universal value we care about and I know Fox cares about."

O'Reilly left it at that instead of ruining the moment by asking about Obama's views on the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

O'Reilly proceeded to ask about Mubarak in general terms, without mentioning Vice President Biden's assurance after the Egyptian protest started that Mubarak was not a dictator.

Obama said that he does not know when Mubarak will leave office, but that Egypt has been forever changed by the protesters.

Obama: "...here's what we know...Egypt is not going to go back to what it was. The Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative government, they want a responsive government."

O'Reilly asked if Obama viewed the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the opposition groups in Egypt, as a threat.

Obama replied: "I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don't have majority support in Egypt. But they are well organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S., there is no doubt about it."

Obama stressed secular opposition to Mubarak and said, "It's important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people."

O'Reilly could have asked about Obama's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and why Obama had members present when he visited Egypt after becoming President.

Instead, O'Reilly opined: "Those are tough boys, the Muslim Brotherhood. I wouldn't want them anywhere near that government."

The Packers and the Steelers are tough. The Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

O'Reilly moved on to health care and asked Obama whether he was concerned that Obamacare ultimately would be held unconstitutional.

Obama replied: "Well, I think the judge in Florida was wrong. Keep in mind that we've had 12 judges that just threw this case out — the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional."

O'Reilly, who is not a lawyer but sometimes likes to play one, did not ask Obama why he claims that the individual mandate that is an essential part of Obamacare is constitutional and Obama contended himself with dismissive generality.

Obama insisted that he was not a redistributionist and Obamacare was not an effort to bolster "big government."

O'Reilly did not even roll his eyes, much less remind President Obama that he had told SEIU that he ultimately wanted a single payer plan.

Perhaps tired of playing Obama's fawning straight man, O'Reilly asked Obama whether he had moved toward the center, especially since Election Day 2010. (O'Reilly never mentioned Obama's acknowledgement that he had taken "a shellacking" that day.)

Obama denied that he had changed ideologically at all and blamed the circumstances he confronted as President for "extraordinary steps" he "had to take."

Obama: "Over the first two years of my presidency, we had a complete disaster. Right? We had a complete crisis. The financial markets were breaking down. We were slipping into a great depression. And we had to take a bunch of extraordinary steps in order to make sure that the economy was growing again — which it is now growing — making sure that the private sector was creating jobs again — it's now doing that — and now our focus is not on refighting the battles of the last two years."

Obama added that he was focused on "how do we out-innovate, out-educate, out-build, out-compete the rest of the world."

O'Reilly didn't ask how to do that, or mention Obama's extraordinary deficit spending or raising the national debt limit.

Instead O'Reilly asked, at length, about the Super Bowl!

The interview ended this way:

O'REILLY: ...I have to say, I enjoyed talking to you. I disagree with you sometimes. I hope you think I'm fair to you, I try to be. But I wish you well in the next two years.

OBAMA: Bill, it's always a pleasure. I enjoyed it.

O'REILLY: It's nice to see you.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.

O'REILLY: And we are going have more with the president, by the way, on THE FACTOR starting on Monday, going to do a little bit more Q and A.

So, enjoy the game.

The game was much more enjoyable than the interview, which resembled an Obama campaign commercial.

Based on the live interview, it's very doubtful that the "little bit more Q and A" will be worthwhile.

© Michael Gaynor

 

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)

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