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If you missed the interview of President Obama by Fox's Bill O'Reilly last night, here it is....it's a little over 14 minutes long...
Some on the left criticized Obama for agreeing to an interview with Bill-o just before the SuperBowl. Those critics pointed out the nature of Fox's programming as an official communications arm of the Republican Party....and suggested that any interview of the president done by Fox would simply be used as another weapon against the Democratic president.
Obviously, Obama was unmoved by such pre-emptive criticism.
My take on the interview does not so much concern itself with the questions and the answers....but, instead, the demeanor of the two men involved. Obama was his normal calm, cool and confident self. He answered all of O'Reilly's questions thoughtfully, remained pleasant and relaxed, and was not rude to, nor combative with, his host.
Mr. O'Reilly, on the other hand, came across as he normally does on his nightly Factor program. Bill-o interrupted often, condescended towards the most powerful officeholder in the world, at times was simply rude....and the worst part....O'Reilly seemed agitated, angry, upset, like some mad old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
Like many Tea Party members.
And therein lies the lesson.
There is one particular conservative/libertarian psychological dynamic involved here which, I think, is instructive. Many on the right feel that those on the left look down at them as uniquely ignorant or hickish...uneducated or just plain stupid. To be honest about it, I often mock what conservatives say and do, point out unintended ironies and inconsistencies in conservative narratives, and elaborate on the often anti-scientific, anti-reality viewpoint of many conservatives. I'm sure that many read my blogs and consider me a condescending, arrogant, know-it-all.
Conservatives caught up in this dynamic consider themselves to be Ms. Palin's "real Americans"....proud to be criticized by their "elitist", ivory tower-dwelling opponents, renewed in their determination whenever their faith is spotlighted for it's anti-scientific take, ever ready to throw the "common sense" card on the table and call it a trump whenever facts are not on their side.
Not having the answers in the face of a barrage of countervailing evidence demonstrating the wrongness of one's position breeds a sense of intimidation. Intimidation is often responded to with contempt, anger, impatience. When we are intimidated because we are outgunned, as it were, as Bill-o was with Obama last night, we often try to securitize our own self-esteem by resorting to authoritarian bullying and visible demonstrations of distaste, dismissiveness, misplaced condescension....and the mean-old-man look.
Last night presented a great opportunity for the most watched teevee guy in conservative/libertarian land to prove to a very large audience that he did not simply represent a bunch of intimidated, ticked off, know nothings.
Instead, Bill-o, and the Fox network he works for, came off as unreasonable, churlish, intimidated, juvenile and unserious. Yes, it was O'Reilly's job last night to create fodder for Fox's 24/7, anti-Obama programming.....however, the network, and the nation, would have been better served if Big Bill would have dropped the divisive, angry, rude, dismissive, old man schtick and came across as a more serious partner in our national dialogue.
The nation would have been better off for it.