Milbank, O’Reilly, Fox News and Disrespecting Presidents Today

Brian Birdnow

2/10/2014 10:34:00 AM - Brian Birdnow

Much has been reported recently concerning Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and his pre-Super Bowl interview of President Barack Obama. Many of the Obama cheering section are stating that this action showed Obama’s courage in the sense that he was willing to consent to an interview with a supposedly hostile reporter from an anti-administration television network. Conservative viewers, on the other hand, saw this as an exercise in frustration since the President answered no questions, and spent his time lobbing thinly disguised barbs at the interviewer, and the interviewer’s employer. So, few minds were really changed by this supposedly “courageous” decision by the President to sit down for a chat with Bill O’Reilly. Still, a few days later we had the spectacle of Dana Milbank, the Washington Post propagandist spinning this as a disgraceful effort by Fox to smear the President by turning a rabid dog loose on him, and encouraging the mongrel to attack. Milbank took his Obama hagiography to a new low, simply ignoring the President’s own attacks on O’Reilly and conservative media, and openly slanting this incident as a case of an ill-mannered television reporter showing insufficient reverence for our dear national leader.

A quick perusal of the interview transcript, and Milbank’s commentary on the face-off ignored Obama’s evasive responses to questions and his combative attitude when he continually chided O’Reilly for spreading misinformation, and Fox for providing him a soapbox. When O’Reilly questioned President Obama about the Benghazi attack of September 2012, he asked about the Administration’s reluctance to label this as a terrorist attack. He might well have asked if the President would shrug off an attack on American territory in the future as a non-story. In any event, President Obama blamed the tempest on Fox News, saying that “…they (the public) believe it because folks like you are telling them that.” Dana Milbank ignored the issue altogether and attacked O’Reilly for trying to elicit an answer from a slippery customer.

When the interview turned to the Obamacare follies, Mr. O’Reilly suggested that Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should have been fired for the trainwreck. It has been widely reported, of course, that the Secretary had three-and-one-half years to plan for and to implement Obamacare, from the passage of the Affordable Care Act in March of 2010, to the “rollout” date of October 1, 2013. The fact of the matter is that the planning time was actually a month longer than it took American troops to finish the Germans off in World War II. (This is a fact, as anyone wanting to run the numbers can easily determine. The Administration had a full month longer to get Obamacare right than the amount of time that elapsed from Pearl Harbor to VE Day.) The President ignored O’Reilly on this matter by simply dismissing criticism and saying “…we expected glitches…” and insisting that his Administration demanded and received full accountability, in all cases. Dana Milbank, for his part, cried foul when O’Reilly asked, in a roundabout fashion, if the infamous Obama declaration “If you like your current health care plan, you can keep it”, had been the biggest mistake of his Presidency.

Finally, the interview segued into the IRS corruption scandal. The President said last summer that the IRS targeting conservative groups was “outrageous”, and that he would get to the bottom of the mess. In the interview, the President sang a different tune. He insists that a careful study of the matter would turn up “…not a smidgen of corruption”. He has no investigative summary or evidence to back up that statement, but simply changed the subject and claimed that the whole matter was a creation of Fox News. The petulant President stated “These kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part, because you and your TV station will promote them.” Dana Milbank avoided addressing the President’s evasive responses, but gave him high marks for his casual dress, and for the fact that he occasionally smiled while bashing Fox News.

O’Reilly scored something of a split decision when he compelled the President to backtrack somewhat on his 2008 vow to fundamentally transform America. In response to a written question from a viewer, O’Reilly asked the President why he would want to fundamentally transform a nation that had given him so much. Obama answered that a fundamental transformation was unnecessary; but that the country needed to even out the disparities between the haves and the have-nots, never mind that the disparities between the wealthy and the poor have increased faster under Obama than they have increased at any time since the mid-1960s. Dana Milbank’s slant on this subtheme was that the fact that O’Reilly and Fox News still existed proved that Obama did not attempt to fundamentally transform the nation. Yes, sending one’s media critics off to the gulag would be a transformation that would leave many Americans quite uncomfortable.

Mr. Milbank spends the great majority of his column space deriding conservatives for, as he puts it, descending down “the road to Obama hysteria.” In this instance Milbank is channeling his inner Charles Krauthammer, recalling, no doubt, that the redoubtable Mr. Krauthammer diagnosed what he called “Bush Derangement Syndrome” back in 2005. This nervous condition caused liberals to change from Dr. Henry Jekyll to Mr. Edward J. Hyde, at the mere mention of George W. Bush. Milbank is stealing a page from the Krauthammer playbook. In any event, Milbank lectures O’Reilly for being “disrespectful” to the President. One does not remember the Washington Post columnists expressing any unease at the disrespect journalists showed for George W. Bush. Katie Couric chided and corrected the President openly on CBS News during her face-to-face interview with Bush in 2006. Those readers of a certain vintage might remember the glee that members of the fourth estate displayed when Sam Donaldson showed open disrespect toward President Reagan. Dana Milbank, for his own part, shows nothing but disrespect for all Republicans, including recently referring to the GOP as “…The Stupid Party”,again lifting someone else’s idea, in this case John Stuart Mill’s description of the nineteenth century British Tories.

What we have here is a classic case of the liberals circling the wagons because one of their icons is coming under fire, and they don’t know what else to do. This has happened before when the liberal flavor of the month turns out to leave a bad taste. Back in 1984 the Left told the American people that the Democratic Party’s woefully unqualified Vice-Presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferarro, was a rough diamond who could capably step-in for the President in case of a national emergency. In 1992 we were told that Bill Clinton was the answer to all our national ills, with columnist Mary McGrory actually comparing the Clintons to the Holy Family, in a December, 1992 column. After the sheen wore off of Bill Clinton the media changed focus and told us that Hillary Clinton was the smartest woman in history, a veritable Joan of Arkansas, and the next great hope for America. This refrain is being sung once again by the groupies who forgot their heroine back in 2008, but are now forgiven their earlier transgressions and are back in the fold.

We have seen the same treatment meted out to Barack Obama since his appearance on the national stage in 2004. He has been the beneficiary of good press bordering on adoration. A fawning media protect and actually front for him as a favored son. They willfully misrepresent his extremist ideology; they ignore his unsavory associates, and have never questioned his meager qualifications for the most demanding office in the world. They will also continue to fabricate favorable outcomes to every Obama initiative, no matter how ghastly the actual result. This media hagiography has now reached a new low with Dana Milbank and the Washington Post attacking Fox News for daring to ask the President straight questions, and defending Mr. Obama’s refusal to answer. The only question still open is in the court of public opinion. Are the American people still buying this media fantasy?