Bill O’Reilly Asks: Should Politicians Be Role Models?

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 23rd, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

This past Thursday and Friday on Fox News Bill O’Reilly spent time talking about  and his affair with his maid and the resulting love child. O’Reilly is concerned with the pervasiveness of social media and the internet and the implications for good people who make mistakes and their ability to run for office.

To be fair, Mr. Bill was not making light of Arnold’s or John Edwards’ infidelities. He questioned what if any impact the stress of the Governator’s personal situation might have had on the escalating California debt under his tenure.

But then O’Reilly veers off into the role model question and how false rumors, misinformation, or past mistakes can run rampant on the internet and prevent good people from running for office.

He goes so far as to mention the flaws and mistakes of some of the founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, who had an affair with his slave, and how they couldn’t get elected in today’s culture.

First, let me say Bill, that sounds like you’re justifying bad behavior of today with bad behavior of the past; something you frequently dissuade your guests for doing. Second, I think we have to make a distinction between false rumors and past mistakes. I think good people of all political persuasions can agree that there should be no place for false rumors and lies.

Past mistakes or questionable moral decisions should be vetted, owned up to and left up to the American people as to how much they want to let it affect their vote. After all, we are talking about the most powerful and important positions in our country. I once had to go through a ten-year background check to get a job in retail at a department store. It should be harder to get a job in government than it is at Macy’s.

The role model question: If as a society we can place this kind of pressure and responsibility on our star athletes and our entertainers, (See the scrutiny TNT analyst and retired Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley received for his, “I am not a role model”, commercial in 1993) we can do the same or more for those who would be Commander-in-Chief and leaders of the free world.

However, our collective differences, cultural, religious and so on make it impossible for any public figure to live up to what everyone’s definition is of what makes a good role model. The axiom, you can’t please all of the people all of the time applies here. What we have a right to expect is honesty, consistency, integrity, loyalty, leadership, and qualities that evoke respect and trust.

Further, how politicians respond to the mistakes that we all make says as much or more about their character than the mistake itself. As your ilk has said on many occasions Bill: The cover up is worse than the crime.

From the perspective of a politician, the risk of covering up a mistake has been worth the reward of political advancement and the power and prestige that comes with it. So they lie, cover up and compound their errors or questionable judgment.

Today’s media, the internet, the bloggers and digital technology does make it harder for one to cover their tracks. I say that is a good thing. Let the politicians of tomorrow beware; your mistakes will follow you. Mistakes, or arrogance, immorality, corruption and so on. So don’t make them, but if you do, deal with them in a responsible way with integrity.

You see the flip side is Americans are a very forgiving and understanding society. George W. Bush was elected despite a DUI. Bill Clinton, was elected even though he claimed not to inhale and was reelected despite extra marital activity.

Further, the possible candidates have increased over the years which runs counter to the inference that social media is making it harder. For example, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and President Obama are examples of those that would not have made it to the primary season as viable candidates when I was growing up:

  • Newt, with his three marriages and affairs.
  • Rudy and his affair/divorce.
  • Hillary being a female, Mitt Romney being a Mormon.
  • President Obama, with Sean Hannity, yourself, and others on the radio, internet et al inundating the public with his association with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

Of course not to suggest that any or all of these things are mistakes, I’m just making the point that the voter is more open than ever before and is not so quick to eliminate possible candidates for reasons they would have in the past.

Gary Hart for example decided not to run, even though he was leading in the poles, for the democratic nomination in 1987 due to an extra marital affair that he lied about. In 1987, long before Twitter, Hart was in a lose- lose situation based on the mores of the time.

Today, a viable candidate can overcome an affair, if he (or she) is honest about it when confronted and deals with it in a way acceptable to the electorate. And if a potential candidate doesn’t run for office because he is afraid that a past situation may come to light and he doesn’t want to be honest about it, than that is not on social media, it is on the individual.

Whether it is counteracting the swift boating of John Kerry, or the mainstream media’s assault on President Bush’s National Guard service record, the independent blogger not only brings a new level of accountability to politicians but to the mainstream media and lobbyists as well.

Those are good things. Lying, smearing and character assassinations are among its flaws, but lets not pretend (which you don’t) this doesn’t go on in every other form of media already. It takes a huge amount of money and fundraising to be a viable candidate (which is a problem in and of itself) and it is up to politicians to adapt to the growth of the media and its social arm and as always have the fortitude to see a campaign through.

Despite the growth of the media the pundits seem to agree that: jobs, the deficit, gas prices and real issues will decide the next election and not what some right-wing radical or left-wing loon says on his facebook page.

One of the best lines I have ever heard in a political add is, “character is defined by what you do when people are not looking”. Again, everyone makes mistakes, but it is fair to evaluate candidates based on how they deal with them.

More than just a right to know, the public has a right to expect candidates to be willingly vetted and honest about their record, their behavior and why they did or do certain things. In dealing with past mistakes, crimes, or decisions of questionable moral certitude with honor, instead of deception and cover up, that is how a politician can model good behavior. That is a reasonable expectation for us to have of those who would be our leaders.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

It’s Time For Bill O’Reilly To Come Out Of The Closet

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No I am not suggesting that Bill O’Reilly is a homosexual.  Not that there would be anything wrong with that.  Rather, that he is a moderate to conservative Republican who for some reason likes to refer to himself as an Independent.  And while there is more effort on his part to be “balanced” than say Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, he too falls short.

Here are two ways to look at this.  One, is O’Reilly’s position on issues.  And two, is the composition of his guests.  Two(A) would be which guests he agrees and disagrees with most.

First, on the issues of the day.  Which party does Mr. Bill side with or more closely align with on the following?

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  • The deficit?
  • Taxes?
  • Job Creation?
  • Obamacare?
  • Abortion?
  • Use of military force?  (He has been fair to President Obama when he does as President Bush did before him.)
  • “War” on Christmas and Judeo-Christian values? oreillywaron
  • Immigration reform?
  • Gun control?
  • Same sex marriage?
  • The justice system & Supreme Court? (Jessica’s Law, trying terrorists on foreign soil versus U.S., etc.)

In some cases O’Reilly does walk a moderate line on social issues while still leaning Republican. In most others the distinction is clearly conservative/ Republican.  Unless I’m misunderstanding the meaning of what it means to be politically independent, given the above, and no clear prominent positions where he is on the left, it’s hard to imagine O’Reilly being a true Independent.  When it comes to who he will vote for in an election, it’s a fair bet that he votes Republican.

In 2016, if Hillary Clinton is running against Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or whoever the Republicans put out there, my money is on O’Reilly voting for the Republican.  And I’ll double down and suggest he’ll know that very early on in the process, (like as soon as the respective candidates win their primaries).

I challenge O’Reilly to do one of his unscientific FOX News polls and see who his viewers, (and guests), think he would vote for in a hypothetical 2016 Presidential match-up:  Clinton, lets say Rubio, or Undecided.  I’m thinking Rubio wins that poll over Clinton and Undecided in a landslide.

Alan Colmes, MonicaCrowley and Bill O'Reilly

Alan Colmes, Monica
Crowley and Bill O’Reilly

Let’s look at his guests.  O’Reilly will have on two guests at a time with each representing a different point of view.  Currently, he has a weekly segment called “Barack and a Hard Place”, with Monica Crowley and Alan Colmes.  It’s not even close who he agrees with more.  It’s the conservative,  Crowley.  Colmes, the liberal, is also more likely to be ridiculed, disrespected, demeaned and yelled at.

You can go through the years and find that O’Reilly will side with the Republican in any two-guest pairing a majority of the time.

This isn’t wrong in and of itself.  In fact, his positions on the issues aren’t being debated here. Rather that it is disingenuous for him to refer to himself as an Independent given the clarity, confidence and boldness with which he holds and asserts his opinions.

O’Reilly used to have a segment: “Weekdays with Bernie (Goldberg) and Jane (Hall)”. They’d discuss the media’s treatment and response to political issues.  Same deal as with Colmes.  Goldberg, who O’Reilly was more likely to agree with, (taking the conservative position), gets treated with more respect and isn’t interrupted or challenged with the same voracity nearly as consistently as was Jane.  Somewhere along the line they got rid of Jane and now Goldberg comes on alone.  Where’s the balance?

You can go back to pairings of Kirsten Powers and Michelle Malkin to Juan Williams and Mary Katharine Ham, O’Reilly is consistent with who he sides with.  The Republican.  And just because he doesn’t think Obama is a socialist, doesn’t make O’Reilly an Independent.

O’Reilly also has individual guests that he interviews and debates.  The dominant personalities in the run up to the 2012 presidential election were: Karl Rove, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, Charles Krauthammer, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and Brit Hume.

Not exactly a who’s who of Democrats.  Oftentimes O’Reilly’s Democratic guests rotated and or were not as notable as their Republican leaning counterparts.

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O’Reilly will play devil’s advocate with his conservative guests, but you do not see him get in their faces and shout like he has with Colmes, Barney Frank, and Geraldo Rivera.  (When Rivera was defending a liberal position on immigration.)

If he does get loud or disagree with a conservative guest, like he did with Laura Ingraham on his April 2nd broadcast, it is usually over style and not substance.  They usually agree on the heart of an issue but perhaps not in the way it’s being advocated for.

O’Reilly was defensive because he felt Ingraham was “tacitly” criticizing him for his use of the phrase “thump the bible”.  They weren’t arguing over same-sex marriage, but the way in which those against it present their case.

To further illustrate this, on April 3rd, in response to a viewer emailer, who sided with Ingraham, and was framing same-sex marriage as a sin, O’Reilly stated to the emailer, “if you want to keep your country from going down the drain, be smart”.   This is a reference by O’Reilly that the religious argument will not convert anyone on the same-marriage issue.  What you can infer from that is  O’Reilly may believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage will cause America to go down the drain.

If you say O’Reilly never has controversial conservative guests to argue with over substance, I believe Ann Coulter has been on his show a few times.  And did I mention Glenn Beck?  Have they never said anything worth, “an independent”, like O’Reilly, raising his voice over or being in vehement disagreement with?

Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller

Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller

For a conservative, part comedic and part serious political discussion, O’Reilly will have on: Dennis Miller, Adam Carolla, Greg Gutfeld and Bernard McGuirk.  There is no weekly Democratic counterpart to this group.  Could you see O’Reilly and Bill Maher mocking Republicans and having a jolly old, never confrontational, time with it– like he does with Miller at the expense of Democrats?

O’Reilly has a field producer, Jesse Waters.  Waters generally scours the streets looking for uniformed liberals to make look bad.  I guess all or most conservatives are informed and reasonable?  Perhaps not week-to-week, but over time, shouldn’t a show hosted by an independent offer balance to these segments?

And when talking to or about liberals, O’Reilly oftentimes refers to them as “left wing loons”, or “far left fanatics”.  There are no counter pet names for the right.  He will point out that there are ideologues and bomb throwers on both sides, but the frequency and specificity of name calling and identifying as radical or loon, usually comes at the expense of the left.  If O’Reilly were an Independent would this be the case?

When talking about liberal bias in the media, O’Reilly discusses two kinds.  Intentional and subconscious.  With the subconscious being a result of a journalist’s political leanings that just seeps into their work.  I’m willing to give O’Reilly some benefit of the doubt that some of his bias is unintentional and a result of his passionate and authentic beliefs.  But he and his staff are too intelligent and too good at what they do to not be aware of any of this.

Interestingly, since the presidential election, FOX dismissed Dick Morris, and reduced Karl Rove’s role.  Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel, now has a regular segment and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill is making more appearances.  This does help the show’s balance but doesn’t alter my premise.  O’Reilly is an “Iino” (Pronounced: I Know, meaning, Independent in name only).

I do watch O’Reilly more than shows hosted by Hannity or Maddow because despite his slant there is more attempt at balance.  However, I would never recommend getting your news from just one source.

What O’Reilly is not, is a blind ideologue.  He will own mistakes (sometimes) and call his own on the carpet.  (See the recent Michelle Backman flare up.) He’s passionate and confident in his beliefs, but most of the time he provides a forum for those who disagree to get their point across.  Granted they must have gravitas to stand up to him when he’s in interrupt mode.

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If O’Reilly was as biased or to the right as a Hannity or Rush Limbaugh you would have never seen a then Senator Barrack Obama on his program when he was running for President.   And Obama must have been okay with it because he was interviewed by O’Reilly again at half time of the Superbowl when he was President.  Further, you would not see former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney avoid O’Reilly’s show.

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Other prominent Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, that would never be interviewed by Hannity, do go on O’Reilly.  And there are Republicans other than Cheney that avoid O’Reilly because they know even though he is more likely to side with them on the issues, he will still ask tough questions.

However, just because O’Reilly is not a blind ideologue, who interviews some prominent Democrats, while scaring off some Republicans; that too does not make him an Independent.

A question I’d like to ask O’Reilly is: who are the last six presidential candidates you’ve voted for?  Any Dems or Independents in that group?  How about Senators and Congressmen?

I would ask him not to dodge.  I would say: no spin Bill!  Come out of the closet.  Admit it!  You are a Republican.

What Would You Do? A Question About Guns

OReillyCostas

Fox NewsBill O’Reilly asked NBC’s Bob Costas if he was in that movie theater in Aurora Colorado when the mass shooting occurred, on the night of the last Batman premiere, would he prefer to have had a gun to protect himself or be defenseless hiding on the floor, hoping not to be killed?

Before I go on, here is the back-story:

In the wake of the murder suicide perpetuated by Kansas City Chiefs football play Jovan Belcher on December 1st, comments were made by NBC analyst Bob Costas during the broadcast of Sunday night football that has since sparked more debate and controversy than the heinous crime itself.  Costas was paraphrasing parts of an article written by FOXSports.com writer Jason Whitlock in which he talks about the culture of guns and that if Belcher didn’t have a gun, two more people would be alive.

Without taking sides on gun control, I can say that I do think it was inappropriate for Costas to comment when and how he did.  He was in fact “politicizing” an issue in a moment of mourning when the wounds of the tragedy were still open and sensitive to the touch.  Regardless of how you feel about the gun issue, in grand moments, when an issue captures national attention, and is of emotional concern, to borrow a sports term, it is time for a timeout, from where we disagree.

It should be a moment of coming together.  With the right sensitivity, the togetherness of the moment could then possibly be used as a means of having that serious conversation of how we can learn and improve things.  In this case, not only as it pertains to guns, but also mental illness and domestic violence.

If you’re reading this and are anti-gun or in favor of repealing the second amendment, imagine how you would have felt if instead of stating that Belcher and his girlfriend would still be alive if he didn’t have a gun, Costas spent a minute stating that Kasandra Perkins might still be alive if only she had a gun to protect herself?  Those comments would not have been appropriate either.

costas-belcher

I applaud Costas’ intentions.  The criticism he has faced is overstated but that is a byproduct of the sheer volume of the transmedia we have today.  It is just the way it is anytime someone veers off the politically correct course.

This criticism landed Costas in a chair opposite Bill O’Reilly and the question O’Reilly posed at the beginning of this blog.  Costas said he wouldn’t want a gun.  O’Reilly said he would.

Now that the proverbial can of worms is open, I will dive in.

My comment is this, the question posed by O’Reilly is incomplete and I would like to add another scenario.  Your choice is: to not have a gun, or for everyone in the theater to have a gun.

In this scenario maybe James Holmes never attacks that night.  But for the moment since he had body armor and superior weaponry lets assume he did.  My next question for the gun carrying audience is how well trained are they with their guns?  How accurate a shot are they?  How do they respond under this type of pressure?  Do they have an itchy trigger finger?   How will each individual respond to the shock of initial gunfire?  Will they know, immediately, who the attacker is, or might they mistake a fellow theatergoer as the attacker and shoot at them?  Or maybe they know who the attacker is but a stray bullet finds an unintended target.

The pro gun crowd likes to talk about personal responsibility and remove blame from guns.  Okay Bill O’Reilly.  If you’re in that theater and you’re carrying a gun and stand up and shoot me instead of James Holmes, you should go to jail for involuntary manslaughter and my family is suing you for wrongful death.  While I do respect your right to bear arms, you do also bear the responsibility of your actions.

Like many issues, spanning from dependency on foreign oil, social security, and immigration, gun control and its myriad of issues keeps getting kicked down the road.

And while Costas’ timing was admittedly off, he and Whitlock raise valid points about the gun culture, so rather then let that timing obscure the issue, can we have that conversation now?  Can we take action now?  Not to repeal the 2nd amendment, (I support it) but to evaluate and update its regulation, education, and enforcement?

Last question.  If you were in a movie theater.  One that was going to be attacked by a man in bulletproof body armor and assault weapons.  Would you rather everyone in that theater had a gun or that everyone did not?