Syndicated columnist Dana Milbank penned a recent article ( see link) lambasting Bill O’Reilly for being unfair to President Obama in the now-famous Super Bowl Day interview. Not surprising, and certainly subjective.
What Mr. Milbank failed to point out, is that good journalism strives to elicit truthful answers on important issues, and when the journalist is limited to a ten-minute time frame, it leaves no time for lengthy discussion about anything, which is why O’Reilly had a short list of pointed questions, some of which were left hanging unanswered.
The president’s forte’ is speechmaking. Knowing this, O’Reilly was in a position to present as many questions as possible without allowing a time-consuming filibuster.
It was necessary for O’Reilly to interrupt the president. For example, he asked a question like: “Why didn’t you fire Sebelius, the secretary in charge of this?” (Re: Obamacare website fiasco) Obama dodged the question completely.
“You know my main priority right now is to make sure that it delivers for the American people…”
So, O’Reilly interrupted again: “You’re not going to answer that?”
To which, the president cited a litany of enrollment numbers, but nothing about Mrs. Sebelius. The president could have been more honest had he simply said, “I like Mrs. Sebelius, period.” End of discussion. Instead, he rambled about items unrelated to the question. Obama was simply not going to answer.
The president also tap danced around the question of when he was first informed that the Benghazi attack was terror related. That question still remains unresolved. Fortunately Obama did not retort, “What difference does it make?”
The president dishonestly dodged another question, submitted by a citizen: “Mr. President, why do you feel it’s fundamentally necessary to transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?”
Answer: “I don’t think we have to fundamentally transform the nation.”
O’Reilly: “But those were your words.”
Fact: Five days before the election of 2008, in Columbia, Missouri, Mr. Obama made a campaign speech which included: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
The president never addressed the question
But the president did manage to get in his jab at Fox News about the IRS scandal: “These kinds of things keep surfacing, in part, because you and your TV station promote them.” (These are qestions being asked by many millions of people Not a good time to be a cry baby.)
When asked about the IRS fiasco, the president sloughed it off to a few boneheaded decisions in the field, claiming there was no mass corruption. Adding, “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”
O’Reilly should have countered, “But it is still an on-going investigation, the answers are still unknown. How can you make such a conclusion?”
There were no softball questions, which other journalists are famous for. O’Reilly did his job well, considering his restraints. The columnist, Dana Milbank’s criticism should have been directed to the president for emulating Fred Astaire and wrongfully drawing conclusions about on-going investigations.
To his credit, the president did agree to the interview knowing it would be contentious.
To his credit, Bill O’Reilly was not intimidated by the president and did his job without backing down.