Agony at eight

Ever since I had some very expensive dental work done back in the early ’90s, I have flossed my teeth every day with an almost religious devotion. I usually do this around 8 p.m., after the dishes are put away and I’m ready to wind down.

It takes me about a half hour and two hands to do a really thorough flossing job so, to keep my mind occupied while leaving my hands free for sawing and scraping, I plop myself down in front of the TV and switch on the O’Reilly Factor. I watch O’Reilly because I don’t want to start a movie I’ll probably never finish, and because all the other offerings in the eight o’clock time slot are so dreadful.

One thing I don’t watch Bill O’Reilly for is Bill O’Reilly. I like his regular contributors — Bernard Goldberg, Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, Megyn Kelly, John Stossel, etc. — but O’Reilly himself comes across as a boorish know-it-all. He is supposed to be a conservative, but he is neither a libertarian nor a Constitutionalist. His “conservatism” is like that of the lout at the corner bar who spends the evening annoying bar patrons who are trying to watch the hockey game that’s playing on the big screen TV, ranting about a government that has no business telling him what to do, and then winding up his tirade with the proclamation, “There ought to be a law!”.

O’Reilly seems to care not a whit about liberty or the Constitution. During the Hurricane Katrina disaster he endorsed gun confiscation in New Orleans and, when someone pointed out that this was a violation of the Second Amendment, he said, “that’s a pretty extreme position”.

He also is either ignorant of, or does not have a lot of use for the First Amendment. In this exchange with Megyn Kelly regarding the U. S. Court of Appeals’ decision to require plaintiffs to pay the court costs for an appeal they lost against Westboro Baptist Church, O’Reilly reveals not only his ignorance of court procedure, but his disdain for freedom of speech:

After several minutes of heated exchange during which she tried, in the face of repeated interruptions and mischaracterizations of her position, to explain the basics of the law to O’Reilly, a clearly exasperated Kelly said,

Don’t you understand the implications for free speech that this case has? It has serious, serious implications. People gathered 1,000 feet from the funeral. It was disgusting. But we have a First Amendment that allows you to say disgusting things in this country.

O’Reilly exhibited similar ignorance of the rule of law when he raked Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, over the coals for criticizing President Obama’s extortion of $20 billion from BP. Bachmann agreed with O’Reilly that BP should be held liable for all damages, but her insistence that damages should be determined through due process, rather than in a private meeting between Obama and BP’s chairman, met with no sympathy.

O’Reilly has a habit of interrupting even those who agree with him if they are not saying exactly what he wants them to say. Recently he had two lawyers, Tamara Holder and Jennifer Smetters, on to talk about the Sunderlands, whose 16-year-old daughter Abby was rescued from the Indian Ocean after a 30-foot wave ended her dream of sailing around the world.

Even after O’Reilly misstated the facts in the case to make it appear that the Sunderlands had deliberately put their daughter in danger for the sake of a TV reality show deal, Holder, a former prosecutor, tried to explain that, even if the facts were true, they did not rise to the level of an indictable offense. I say “tried” because O’Reilly kept interrupting her. However, Smetters, who favored prosecuting the Sunderlands for criminal child endangerment, was allowed to finish her statements.

So, if O’Reilly is so bad, why don’t I just switch channels? To what? Keith Olbermann? This sample from back in January should be self-explanatory:

O’Reilly at least pretends to be fair and balanced.

Sometimes when O’Reilly got to be too much for me I’d flip over to Campbell Brown on CNN. But my problem with Brown was the opposite of my problem with O’Reilly: I liked Brown, but not the talking heads she had on. That’s all moot now, anyway, since Brown, citing low ratings and a desire not to try to boost them by turning herself into an O’Reilly or Olbermann, resigned last month.

So, how is CNN going to compete with O’Reilly and Olbermann? Are you ready for this? With a tag team consisting of disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (also known as “Client No. 9”) and every liberal’s favorite “conservative” columnist, Kathleen Parker. Yes, folks, the new Hannity & Colmes — except here both of them are Colmes, which is, to say, liberal.

Parker endeared herself to liberals during the 2008 election with her demand — repeated in practically ever other column she wrote — that Sarah Palin resign from the Republican ticket. (I talk about this here and here.) She sealed her betrothal with a snarky put-down of the religious voters who make up much of the GOP base. For these columns, she was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize which — even she admits — she got because she’s a “conservative basher”.

Parker used her column in Sunday’s Washington Post to plug the new show. She praised Spitzer for being “prescient about Wall Street, in other words, long before the recent financial crisis. Who wouldn’t be interested in what he has to say about financial reform today?”

Well, I wouldn’t. Especially since, when then New York Attorney General Spitzer went after Wall Street, he did it using methods that can only be described as prosecutorial bullying.

And the hypocrisy of a man who once aggressively prosecuted call girl rings hiring a $5,000-per-hour hooker? “Like most Americans”, said Parker, “I believe in redemption”. And maybe the not-so-honorable Mr. Spitzer will offer to supplement her reported $700,000-per-year salary with a little after-hours tête-à-tête.

Of course, I could always just turn off the television.

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