Hank  Adler

There are two great movie scenes that could have been the teaching platform for the pre-Super Bowl O’Reilly interview of President Obama. The first choice of what viewers may have been hoping for was Tom Cruise’s questioning of witness Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. The second choice was Al Pacino’s brilliant soliloquy highlighting character and false privilege in Scent of a Woman. As to the former, Mr. O’Reilly was not sufficiently nimble and/or had too much respect for the Office of the President to effectively play Tom Cruise to President Obama’s ego and draw out the desired response: “You Can’t Handle the Truth”. As to the latter, Mr. O’Reilly is too professional to lecture the President that his fantasy world responses to questions about his administration only enables his appointees to keep the truth from the American public.

The tragedy in all of this is the misdirection by the President. When the President of the United States is highly non-transparent and provides answers to any reporter's questions that are, at best, pure spin, the nation is harmed. When the President sees an interview with Bill O'Reilly as a contest rather than an opportunity to increase the transparency of government, the nation is harmed.

A Few Good Men

In A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays the role of a Marine general (Captain Jessup) who is fully aware that his subordinates committed a heinous crime as the result of his encouraging them to ignore a direct order from the Commandant of the Marines. Captain Jessup is placed on the witness stand and treats the young lawyer facing him, Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise), dismissively. Captain Jessup knows that Kaffee could never unearth the truth and that if found challenging a senior Marine officer, Kaffee could be harshly penalized. Kaffee manages to play to Jessup’s ego by listening to his precise answers and ultimately traps Jessup in his own words. At that point, Jessup explodes with the famous quote “You Can’t Handle the Truth” and as he loses his composure, explains that he is both responsible for the heinous act and undaunted by that act because of the underlying benefits to the Marine Corps. The ends of protecting the culture justified the means of the heinous act. This is perhaps what we hoped to see before the Super Bowl.

The Merriman-Webster dictionary first definition of ‘corruption’ is as follows:

dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)

When the President opined that there was not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS, how could the follow-up question not have been: "Mr. President, you fired the Acting Commissioner of the IRS, the leading IRS figure in the investigation invoked the fifth amendment, there is an on-going Justice Department investigation of the IRS and the FBI refuses to provide testimony to Congress because of the on-going investigation. How do you define both smidgen and corruption?”

With respect to his comments (obfuscation) regarding the non-firing of Kathleen Sibelius, how could Mr. O'Reilly's response not have been: "Did it not dawn on you that the person to fix this mess could not possibly be same person who was responsible for the mess? What would it have taken for you to decide to fire Ms. Sibelius?"

And of course, we still do not know where the President or his Secretary of State were on the night of Benghazi. Mr. O'Reilly did not ask.

What did we learn? We learned that the President of the United States can do the ‘rope-a-dope’. We learned that President Obama played the role of Captain Jessup better than Jack Nicholson and while he might not have treated O'Reilly dismissively, he treated each issue that was raised dismissively. We learned that Mr. O'Reilly has sufficient respect for the Office of the President, that we did not find out the truth that he was seeking.

Scent of A Women

Five evenings a week, Mr. O’Reilly provides a soliloquy to open his show. It is where his strengths lie. I, for one, am a huge fan of this portion of the O'Reilly Factor.

In Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino seizes an opportunity to launch a soliloquy where he excoriates the president of an elite high school for protecting the son (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) of an elite parent. Pacino also excoriates the friends of the offending student for doing wrong, by not accepting the appropriate punishment and refusing to acknowledge their wrong-doing. Pacino's soliloquy fits the President perfectly with respect to the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, Obamacare...... Pacino’s presentation is breath takingly strong and his fiction reflects today’s reality.

While O’Reilly is the master of the soliloquy, I suggest it would have been a classless act to launch into a fact based soliloquy. But, it sure would have been fun to watch.

Hank Adler

Hank Adler is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University.

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