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"President" Bill O'Reilly? Matt Lauer Conjures Image During Interview on NBC's "Today" Show

Reported by Marie Therese - January 24, 2006

Above a banner that read "NO SPIN ZONE: CULTURE WAR RAGES ON," the "Today" Show's co-host Matt Lauer interviewed Bill O'Reilly this morning. As O'Reilly announced last night on the Factor, this will be his last non-FOX appearance until his new book on the topic of the "culture war" is hot off the press. (Aside: Well, we can thank the goddess for small favors!)

Lauer fed Mr. O questions tailored to elicit the standard GOP-conservative talking points, at one point even asking "What would President O'Reilly do?" That's right! President O'Reilly! While Lauer's question was clearly not meant to be taken seriously, there has long been speculation that the FOX News host has wider political ambition, including the possibility that he might go up against Hillary Clinton for the New York Senate seat. His new book will be published in October, just before the 2006 election.

O'Reilly calls himself a "culture warrior," casting himself in the role of the Big Daddy who's always looking out for the little people who can't take care of themselves. His favorite targets are judges and district attorneys, usually from blue or swing states, whose rulings or prosecution style he (and his GOP puppet masters) don't like. His latest targets are Judge Edward Cashman of Vermont, who issued a sentence in a child molesting case that O'Reilly knew would inflame his base and Circuit Court Judge E. Brooke Murdock of Maryland, who has opened the door for gay marriage in that state.

With O'Reilly there is always a hidden political agenda behind his crusades. The real reason for the attacks on Judge Cashman, who is, by all accounts, a tough, independent judge and a conservative Republican, is completely partisan. According to O'Reilly, it's very important that the Judge's brother-in-law is a power-player in Democratic politics and a close friend of - are you ready? - DNC Chairman Howard Dean.

Here is my transcript of some of the things that O'Reilly had to say to Lauer.

LAUER: Let's get to domestic spying. Depending on your point of view, you either feel that the President exceeded executive power ...

O'REILLY: Right.

LAUER: ... broke the law or did something that was vital to national security. For those people, some Democrats and some others, who think that he may have broken the law, the remedy would be impeachment. Scale of one to ten, what are the chances the impeachment movement gains momentum/

O'REILLY: There's no chance.

LAUER: Zero.

O'REILLY: Yeah. There's no chance.


O'REILLY: Because he's got a nebulous Congressional act that gives him authority to act against Al Qaeda and they'll just throw that up but here's the key question, what I would ask Bush, if he were sittin' right here today. Why didn't you go for the warrants 72 hours later? See, they can do all the spying they wanted and all the eavesdropping they wanted and then go to the court - they've got three days to go to the court.

LAUER: How do you think the President would answer that?

O'REILLY: I have no idea but that's the key question of the whole thing. Why didn't you do that because you could have set up a mechanism to do it.

LAUER: And would Democrats be foolish to take the President on and go further on this issue, when the President can tie it to national security which is ...

O'REILLY: Of course it would.

LAUER: ... exactly what the Democrats don't want.

O'REILLY: That's what Rove's doin'. They took their internal polling, the Republicans, and they found out that if the Democrats push it, the Democrats'll get whacked!

Comment: This last question was like feeding salmon to a grizzly bear, a tasty, tasty treat, tailor-made for the Great Bloviator's talking point!

LAUER: Iran. Iran says that they're gonna continue to or resume enriching uranium If they're taken to the Security Council for sanctions, what would President O'Reilly do about Iran?

O'REILLY: Blockade.

LAUER: Possible war?

O'REILLY: I wouldn't - I don't think boots on the ground in Iraq (sic) is every gonna happen but I'd blockade that country if it comes to that. Ya' gotta work through the UN but if the UN doesn't do anything, they go out of business.

LAUER: Right.

O'REILLY: The UN goes out of business. But I think Britain, NATO and America could do a blockade and shut them down.

Lauer ended the interview by showing a clip of President Bush admitting he has not seen the movie Brokeback Mountain.

O'Reilly joked "I'm afraid of cowboys. I'm from Long Island. I'm afraid of all cowboys. Gay cowboys. I mean, I don't get the whole shepherd, cowboy, pup tent connection. I'm not gettin' all that stuff ... so I'm a simple guy. I get King Kong. He's a big gorilla. I get him. Alright. This other stuff - over my head and it's in subtitles, isn't it? Cowboy subtitles? Yup. Nope. "

LAUER (smiling broadly): Good to have you here.

O'REILLY: Thank you, Matt. I appreciate it. Thanks for givin' me a headache. My god.

LAUER: [indecipherable] we're tryin' to move through these things.


O'Reilly really toned it down for this interview. I hardly recognized him! He played the good old boy, chumming it up with Lauer and clearly pleased when the men in the crew laughed at his witticisms. (I did not hear any female laughter so I have to assume that either NBC's "Today Show" does not have any women on their tech crew or the women did not find Mr. O'Reilly's comments to be all that humorous.)

Matt Lauer did a good job playing the subservient sidekick to O'Reilly's alpha male. He fed the Great and Powerful Mr. Bill all the right questions, properly phrased to allow for perfectly crafted talking point answers garnished with a soupcon of humor.

All in all, a softball filler piece for the wee hours of a Tuesday morning.

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