Bill the Provocateur

A reader offers an analysis at Andrew Sullivan’s site:

The country, these past seven years in particular, has seemed built upon a foundation of arrogant exceptionalism. We’re the damned best country in the world and we know it and it’s going to be shoved in everyone else’s face. Unilateralism. And the left has responded that we are most certainly NOT the best damned country in the world, look at this problem and that problem and everything’s wrong.

Paul says, we may be the best damned country in the world but that doesn’t mean we are morally required to export this excellence, and at what cost to us if we attempt it? And Obama says, we may be the best country in the world, but let’s be thankful for that, let our nation’s public face be one of humility and magnanimity.

Both represent a restoration of faith, a clean break – though there’s a danger in investing too much faith in the idea that politicians can bring about this kind of sea change in the national outlook. I think, rather, that they exemplify the change that has already taken place in many people’s heads and hearts.

Not in some hearts and heads:

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly got into a confrontation with an Obama aide after O’Reilly started screaming at him as he tried to get Barack Obama’s attention following a rally here. O’Reilly eventually did chat briefly with Obama and asked him to be a guest on his show.

The incident was triggered when O’Reilly – with a Fox News crew shooting – was screaming at Obama National Trip Director Marvin Nicholson “Move” so he could get Obama’s attention, according to several eyewitnesses. “O’Reilly was yelling at him, yelling at his face,” a photographer shooting the scene said.

O’Reilly grabbed Nicholson’s arm and shoved him, another eyewitness said. Nicholson, who is 6’8, said O’Reilly called him “low class.”

“He grabbed me with both his hands here,” Nicholson said, gesturing to his left arm and O’Reilly “started shoving me.” Nicholson said, “He was pretty upset. He was yelling at me.”

Secret Service agents who were nearby flanked O ‘Reilly after he pushed Nicholson. They told O’Reilly he needed to calm down and get behind the fence-like barricade that contained the press.

Also see The O’Reilly Rumble (“Watching reality television at an Obama rally.”) from John Dickerson:

You know when a celebrity television personality like Bill O’Reilly arrives at a political event because they always have a retinue and because people turn their cameras and camera phones from the candidate to capture the famous face. When the popular Fox News entertainer arrived at the Obama event in Nashua, people turned to him but not always approvingly. “Hey O’Reilly,” yelled a man. When O’Reilly turned he got a single-finger salute. A few people approached Bill to shake his hand but the overwhelming sentiment was unfavorable. “O’Reilly hatemonger,” yelled a woman. A few other people gave him the bird. “I hate you Bill,” yelled a man. “You can’t stop us Bill,” yelled another. I thought someone might brain him with one of those Obama “Hope” signs.

Perhaps what Ron Paul and Barack Obama represent, if that reader is right, is just the opposite of what O’Reilly represents, which seems to be a set of not terribly subtle variations on “I really don’t care what you think – you WILL show me some RESPECT!”

That has been the underlying theme of the new American foreign policy from this administration, from the claim that we have every right to wage preventative war when we feel that sometime in the future any given nation might possibly develop into a threat, that we have the right to kidnap any nation’s citizens, and even our own oddly enough, transport them to secret sites where they are held without charges and tortured until they tell us what we have decided they must know, even if sometimes they don’t and sometimes they die, along with minor variations – we are subject to no international law (but others are), we can abrogate any treaty and ignore others we have signed, that international cooperation on global matters (the Kyoto Treaty business) is a sucker’s game for wimps and fools, and all the rest. The guys at the Project for the New American Century who had for decades argued that this “new way” was far preferable to our centuries old way of dealing with the world – that traditional diplomacy stuff with all its balancing of this power and that and talk and treaties where everyone eventually agreed on something or other – finally got their chance to change things. They did.

On the domestic front this manifested itself in fiscal policy – wages may be stagnant, the middle class disappearing, people losing their homes in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme where millions of flaky mortgages were sliced, diced and repackaged and sold and resold to suckers so that no one was left holding the bag, until everyone was – but who cared about the whiners? Job growth each month for seven years never met the mark where the number of jobs created met the number of new workers entering the work force – not one month. Jobs disappeared. But all that kept labor costs low, keeping profits high. And there were minor tax cuts for the masses but massive tax cuts for the wealthy – and that made it possible to say the economy was really humming along. Corporations thrived, the banking industry got its credit card reform, so everyone’s minimum payment doubled, and got the bankruptcy reform they wanted, so there was no escape from it all for most. And millions of jobs were outsourced overseas, where others would work for next to nothing – but that was okay, as the not very good foreign products flooded into Wal-Mart, where, we were told, that, see, life is good and you can buy anything you want, and don’t worry about the lead paint or the shoddy stitching. And there are the forty-seven million uninsured, and the stunningly profitable insurance companies, out here in California dropping those who they agreed they would cover when they got sick and ran up big bills – retroactive cancelation of coverage if you misplaced a comma when you applied many years ago. And why even mention minor administrators with no medical experience refusing to authorize this treatment or that, as “unjustified.” That those who combed post-claim applications for minor errors made years ago had bonuses pegged to the number of dollars saved by sticking some sucker with massive hospital bills he or she thought were covered was just that way things were, and are. You could look up all this. It’s been in the news. You’re supposed to shrug it all off. Things are just fine.

All of that vaguely bothers people, but it all adds up. People are angry, even if is, all laid out, a bit overwhelming. That they, in this minor an isolated instance, turned on Bill O’Reilly, seems fitting. He’s a good enough symbol of the “shut up and stop whining” ethos that has prevailed. He’s built a career riding that horse.

Dickerson also says a number of people shouted “Falafel!” That would be the word O’Reilly used in those telephone conversations with a young woman at Fox News, the conversations landed him in a sexual harassment suit that was settled out of court. It seems he was trying to seduce her as he described a shower they might take together – but he meant loofa, not the Middle Eastern delicacy but the bath item. He often gets things wrong. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC tweaks him almost every weeknight about that. But what was going on here seems to have been something else – mocking a jackass moralist, the dirty old man always after the sweet young thing, like we weren’t supposed to find out. Republicans seem to have a problem in that regard.

The sexy Fox News Girls may also be the issue:

I swear, the giddy suburban cheerleader quality of the Fox girls has been an ongoing cause of vitriol in my household. They just seem to confirm that peculiarly misogynistic, “who’s yah daddy?” sleaze exuded by all those pasty, wrinkled geezers. I’ve always imagined there must be some ingenious contraption hidden below the camera’s gaze, a “giggle prod” of sorts, that gives these teases’ bottoms a good squeeze every time the pruned-dude shows those bedroom eyes.

Another adds this:

The women anchors do not look like Barbie dolls. They look like ex-porn stars. I think it’s the look they’re cultivating.

People are fed up with the arrogant dirty old men and their supple young babes, perhaps.

In any event, here you can listen to the O’Reilly version of what happened at the event. His camera got blocked:

O’Reilly: Some guy comes over, he’s about six foot eight according to the press reports and he stands in front of the Factor camera. So I asked him fairly nicely, “you’re blocking our shot, sir, you need to move a little bit” … so I had to gently remove him from that position. No scuffle, I just moved him from the spot. I might have called him an SOB, that’s possible, nothing more than that. No one on this earth is going block a shot on the O’Reilly Factor. It is not going to happen.

It all of a a piece – “I really don’t care what you think, and you WILL show me RESPECT!”

Bu the Dickerson account is classic, including his mention that the “retinue that followed O’Reilly included men in suits, perhaps accountants under whose jackets rested tiny little cash registers ringing up the profits that come from O’Reilly’s ability to stir just this kind of anger.” And it went like this:

O’Reilly took up a position along the narrow column by the doorway created for Obama’s departure. The press really isn’t supposed to line up against the steel barriers that protect the candidate from the crush of the crowd but it’s not an ironclad rule. We all break it from time to time covering the news. With his camera crew behind him and the sound boom overhead, O’Reilly waited to grab the senator on his way out the door. I had been watching him since his arrival (his group had bumped into me at one of the two press platforms), and I followed him to watch the spectacle it was certain he would create.

At first, the railing where O’Reilly stood wasn’t very populated. Then, as the Obama team saw who was laying in wait, they started to huddle. Staffers started to arrive at the scene. Three policemen showed up, too. One of them stood in front of O’Reilly until O’Reilly asked him to move. One of Obama’s staffers Marvin Nicholson, took up the same post, standing in front of the Fox camera as Obama neared the door.

“You’re blocking our shot,” yelled O’Reilly.

“Oh, am I?” asked the Obama staffer, not entirely sincerely and not moving.

Dickerson says this is not a new trick:

When staffers block you because you’re being too aggressive, the standard thing to do is give them a little business and then move to another spot. O’Reilly didn’t do this. He shoved the Obama aide. There was an exchange and a little more shoving. I didn’t fully capture because as I looked at O’Reilly in his black leather Fox jacket, which resembled the kind we wore during football season in high school, I swore I could hear him challenge the staffer to a rumble out by the drive-in.

“That’s really low class, pal,” said O’Reilly.

But when Obama passed he stopped to talk to O’Reilly:

The conversation was short. O’Reilly did not seem to be causing the commotion in the national interest – I heard no questions about marginal tax rates – but instead he made a personal appeal to Obama to get him on his show. (I can’t be sure; I heard only part of the conversation.) Obama appeared to say that he would come on sometime.

But then there is Dickerson’s confession:

During the shoving, I found myself yelling at O’Reilly to grow up, which was thoroughly unprofessional, except that I have little kids and I think it’s important to discipline misbehavior immediately. If I don’t dare to discipline, they’ll grow up to be like, well, Bill O’Reilly.

Things are changing. The age of the power-mad dirty old white man sneering may be in its last days or months. Everyone is telling these folks to just grow up.

Of course Obama had pretty much been shut out of all serious coverage at Fox News, until the Iowa win, and then they had to say something. All this must be hard for them, especially since Obama, it seems, decided to be gracious and forgiving, damn him!  You thought Obama might be upset with that phony Madrassa story – that Obama could be an Islamic terrorist as he was educated in one of those terrorist Madrassa schools in Indonesia. Fox News never withdrew that, or even slightly corrected it, even if CNN did the basic research and reporting on the matter and thoroughly debunked the whole thing. But here he is, being gracious to Bill and saying he might show up for a chat. Drat!

There is the clip of the Obama staffer, Marvin Nicholson, disagreeing that O’Reilly didn’t get “physical” at all:


Nicholson: After he shoved me and after he stopped yelling at me, I went… I just went over and asked, I said, sir, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t shove me anymore.

And the Secret Service differs with O’Reilly:

Secret Service agents, who were nearby, flanked O’Reilly after he pushed Nicholson. They told O’Reilly he needed to calm down and get behind the fence-like barricade that contained the press.

Oh well.

Okay, you conspiracy theorists, consider that something else is going on here. This was all intentional, an attempt to start violence, to stop the Obama wave. After reading the conservative press, that is just what Jane Hamsher sees:

Jonah Goldberg predicted it. Glen Reynolds nodded in sage assent. The campaign of Barack Obama will inevitably lead to violence on the campaign trail. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged,” said Goldberg. We scoffed. And yet – it has come to pass.

Yep – a black man runs for president and there’s violence. What did you expect? They’re animals. Thanks, Fox News.

You think we’re in trouble here?

Maybe so, but you can fix it. Yes, you. Obama himself says so. See his June Hampton University address:

The truth is, one man cannot make a movement. No single law can erase the prejudice in the heart of a child who hangs a noose on a tree. Or in the callousness of a prosecutor who bypasses justice in the pursuit of vengeance. No one leader, no matter how shrewd, or experienced, or inspirational, can prevent teenagers from killing other teenagers in the streets of our cities, or free our neighborhoods from the grip of homelessness, or make real the promise of opportunity and equality for every citizen.

Only a country can do those things. Only this country can do those things. That’s why if you give me the chance to serve this nation, the most important thing I will do as your President is to ask you to serve this country, too. The most important thing I’ll do is to call on you every day to take a risk, and do your part to carry this movement forward. Against deep odds and great cynicism I will ask you to believe that we can right the wrong we see in America. I say this particularly to the young people who are listening today. …

I know that you believe it’s possible too.

And maybe it is possible. And Bill the Provocateur will sputter and melt, like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. That will happen if we all just laugh at him and tell him to grow up.



About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Obama, Press Notes, Race and Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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