Fox Outfoxed in Obama Interview

Fred J. Eckert
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Posted: Feb 05, 2014 12:01 AM
Fox Outfoxed in Obama Interview

When CBS news anchor Scott Pelley conducted the 2013 Super Bowl Sunday interview with President Obama it was as obvious as it is today that the President, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Obama Administration officials had lied and continued to lie to try to hide the truth about Benghazi.

Yet in the face of this -- and plenty of other serious unanswered questions -- Palley began that CBS interview with: There has been concern about the safety of football at all levels: high school, college and in the NFL. If you had a son, would you let him play?

The other Palley questions: You think there is going to have to be additional revenue over the next four years?...Do you have any hesitation as commander-in-chief ordering women into combat?... Should scouting be open to gays?... If the federal spending cuts that are on tap for March actually take effect, will that push the country into recession? Check the transcript – this really covers each topic question CBS put to President Obama when it was their turn last year – a bias against spending cuts coupled with some inconsequential items tossed in.

Pathetic. But it’s what we have come to expect from the major media.

So let’s give Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly some credit for the decent job he did in this year’s Super Bowl Sunday interview with President Obama. Measured against the standard of the pathetic journalism we have come to expect from the major media, O’Reilly’s interview was terrific. But measured against what we should expect of great journalism, it wasn’t bad and was at times fairly good – but it fell far short of great.

For the most part he asked the sort of questions major media journalists should have all along been asking of the President but never do and clearly prefer not to. He was appropriately respectful and polite while persistent in his quest for answers to his questions. No one in his right mind can fault the professionalism and journalistic competence and integrity that he brought to the interview.

But why did he have to open by referencing the rollout of ObamaCare, asking, When did you know there were going to be problems with those computers? The problem here is that on the scale of things the website fiasco is far from the worst thing wrong with ObamaCare. The question invited the President to speak gibberish about “glitches” in the website, ramble about what “good news” it was that they decided how they were going to fix it, “it got fixed” and now “it’s working the way it’s supposed to.” ObamaCare is a fatally flawed, job-killing, program that impedes economic recovery and will soar the nation’s deficit and debt, not some technological problem that can be tweaked or fixed by computer geeks – but this is the impression the Obama team strives to con the public into believing. Mistake to give him this opening to sing this same old silly song yet again.

Of course Obama’s claim that the website is now “working the way it’s supposed to” was a lie and to O’Reilly’s credit he politely and effectively called him on it and then pressed the President on why he hasn’t fired the person in charge of the website mess-up, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius.

True, O’Reilly effectively demonstrated that Obama was ducking answering why neither Sibelius nor anyone else gets held accountable by this president. But if you’ve made the mistake of leading off with questioning about the website, why waste time trying to get Barack Obama to come clean and reveal exactly when he knew it was a disaster? Why not instead ask him to explain why the no-bid contract for a website that should cost no more than $10 million ended up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and still is not secure and working right?

Was it the biggest mistake of your presidency to tell the nation over and over, if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance? was O’Reilly’s next big question. Should anyone be surprised that Obama seized upon such phrasing as an opening to make light about O’Reilly’s having “a long list” of Obama mistakes and deftly ducking out this way? Wouldn’t it have been better and not so easy to duck had he instead put it this way: It has been very clearly established – incontrovertibly – that even though you knew it was not the truth when you were saying so you repeatedly assured the American people that under ObamaCare they could, if they wished to do so, keep their current health insurance and their current doctor. Why did you not tell the American people the truth? Please tell us why?

On Benghazi, O’Reilly first established that Obama’s Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had been informed by General Carter Ham that Benghazi was unquestionably a terrorist attack just minutes before Panetta headed to a meeting with the President, and then asked: Did he tell you, Secretary Panetta, it was a terrorist attack?

Barack Obama never answered the question; he simply spouted a bunch of gibberish. And he told a couple more lies – claiming that he had characterized Benghazi as a terrorist attack the very next day and claiming that videotape of the attack proves it was “not some systematic, well organized process.” And, no, we shouldn’t fault O’Reilly for not calling out Obama on each and every lie.

Again to his credit, O’Reilly interjected the gibberish with “Did he tell you it was a terrorist attack?” and “Your commanders and the Secretary of Defense know it’s a terror attack.” He truly tried to get answers to serious questions – try to think of someone in the major media who does this – but it was an interview, not a trial, and there’s no judge who can order that a question be answered.

It was, to be fair, a far better interview with President Obama than any we could expect from any major media outlet – but, truth be told, Fox News and Bill O’Reilly got outfoxed.

What made it so difficult to do a really great interview, Fox folks and others argue, is that President Obama allotted only ten minutes for the live interview. It’s very difficult to get in all the questions about the issues they wanted to raise in so short a time – the ObamaCare mess, the Benghazi cover-up, the IRS scandal – so all Barack Obama had to do to escape unscathed is just keep giving long-winded answers and run out the clock and get this little nuisance behind him. That was the given they accepted going in.

Fox and Bill O’Reilly were not outfoxed by Barack Obama. They did it to themselves by not bothering to try to think of a strategy to diminish Obama’s inherent advantage. An effective one would have been to catch the President off guard by picking just one topic that he dreads being questioned about and that the country is anxious to see him forced to give direct answers on -- and then stick to that one topic for the entire ten minutes. Something like this:

Mr. President, we know that on September 11th 2012 you were informed by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs sometime around 5PM that what was just underway in Benghazi was a well-coordinated terrorist attack. We know that between then and the remaining roughly eight hours of that terrorist attack you never spoke again with either one of them or with the director of the CIA.

Where exactly were you all those hours; what exactly were you doing all this time; and what exactly can you point to that you did that you thought at the time might have helped make a difference in the outcome?

That’s the sort of questioning the American people, especially the families of the four Americans murdered in Benghazi, deserve to have put to this president. And it would be very, very difficult for him to dance around. And such questioning is so to the point that he would not be able to attempt to run out the clock without risking a precipitous drop in his approval ratings.

And there might even be time for a follow-through: Mr. President, we also know you did speak to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about five hours into the Benghazi attack and we know that minutes later Secretary Clinton issued a statement in which she blamed the attack on the airing of an anti-Islam video.

Can you explain why your Secretary of State made this false claim when both you and she already knew at that point that it was not true? Whose idea was it to blame the Benghazi terrorist attack on that video? Yours? Hers? Whose?