By State Representative Chris Taylor
I’m at my third American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC)...
This year's Super Bowl was a rout, both for Denver and the rightwing spin machine.
Fox News quarterback Bill O’Reilly did his best on Sunday to crack President Barack Obama’s ironclad defenses, but in a very fitting preview of the game ahead, he came out much like the ill-fated Denver Broncos: soundly thrashed and almost entirely empty handed.
Sitting down with the President ahead of Sunday’s big game, O’Reilly did not seem interested in discussing the day’s most pressing issues, like the war in Syria, widespread mass surveillance, raising the minimum wage or reforming American drug laws. Instead, he quizzed Obama on two favorite topics of Fox News viewers: conspiracy theories about Benghazi and the IRS.
The crux of O’Reilly’s initial volley was that the President did not call the attack on America’s embassy in Beghazi an “act of terror” in his initial comments on the incident.
It's a familiar line, and one that Obama famously batted down during his second debate with Mitt Romney. This time, O'Reilly's insistence upon revisiting the matter drew a laugh from Obama, and for good reason.
“I just want to say that they're -- your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack, because your campaign didn't want that out,” O’Reilly said. “That’s what they believe.”
“And they believe it because folks like you are telling them that,” Obama replied.
“No, I’m not telling them that,” O’Reilly said.
That’s when Obama just laughed at him.
Then again, maybe the President just has a better memory than O’Reilly. Maybe O'Reilly was just operating on cruise control when he appeared on Fox News last December 17 and exclaimed that Obama “totally misled the world” with his initial statement about the attack in Benghazi.
However, O'Reilly was not interested in the President's response. Seeing that he'd fallen short, the Fox News quarterback called his next play.
This time, the target should have been easy. After all, who likes the IRS? Conservatives sure made a lot of hay out of the IRS last year, after documents selected for release by congressional Republicans ostensibly showed the agency singling out rightwing groups for audits.
Surely this Hail Mary pass would put Obama on the defensive. But when O’Reilly put the ball up in the air, he came up short yet again.
“You're saying no corruption?” he incredulously asked the President.
“No,” Obama said.
“None? No?” O’Reilly repeated.
“There were some bone-headed decisions out of the local office,” Obama replied.
“But no mass corruption?” O’Reilly shot back.
“No mass corruption,” Obama answered. “Not even a smidgen of corruption, I would say.”
Neither man mentioned that talk of a “scandal” at the IRS quickly dried up after we learned that progressives were targeted by the agency as well, as part of an effort to better enforce rules about the types of groups that qualify for tax-exempt status.
Rather than dwell on his obvious fumble, O’Reilly's offense swung wildly on a last-ditch question about why Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” the country. Even though he was quoting Obama, the question was vague and wingnutty enough to give the President an open field with nary a defender in sight.
“I think that what we have to do is make sure that here in America, if you work hard, you can get ahead,” Obama said. “Bill, you and I benefitted from this incredible country of ours, in part, because there were good jobs out there that paid a good wage, because you had public schools that functioned well, that we could get scholarships if we didn't come from a wealthy family, in order to go to college. That, you know, if you worked hard, not only did you have a good job, but you also had decent benefits, decent health care.”
“They're cutting me off,” O’Reilly interrupted, clearly annoyed.
“And for a lot of folks, we don't have that,” Obama continued. “We've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to expand the middle class and work hard and people who are working hard can get into the middle class.”
“I think, I... You know,” O’Reilly stammered. “I know you think maybe we haven't been fair. But I think your heart is in the right place.”
If only we could say the same about Mr. O'Reilly's brain.