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O'Reilly says John McCain is "hiding under his desk" rather than debate Bill on torture

Reported by Chrish - September 19, 2006 -

Maybe Senator McCain, former POW and decorated war hero who might conceivably know more about torture techniques than chickenhawk O'Reilly, declined to come on the show because he didn't want to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man. Or maybe he just couldn't fit in the studio alongside O'Reilly's ego. In any event, the Senator was not present so O'Reilly, after a sneering, arrogant Talking Points Memo, had on former Senator Al D'Amato to complain about Senators McCain, Warner and Graham and General Colin Powell, who are breaking with Bush on torture policy.

In His TPM O'Reilly engaged viewers emotionally, asking what kind of action they would support if it was their child who had been captured by terrorists - is John McCain telling him that we can only ask for name, rank, and "jihad number"? (A foolish phrase he's repeated over the past few days.)

He also attacked Princeton economics professor and NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman (a frequent target of O'Reilly's venom) for asking "Why is Mr. Bush so determined to engage in torture?" O'Reilly's simplistic answer was "to protect us" from being attacked, a catch-all reply used frequently to explain away our diminishing rights and freedoms, and now our disappearing moral high-ground.

O'Reilly said the Senators were hiding under their desks because they know the American people realize this debate is "absolutely ridiculous". Another possibility is that they think any serious debate about such a matter is better done with someone who knows what he's talking about, maybe someone who has actually participated in the military, as have the Senators (and obviously the General) in question. O'Reilly says they have hurt themselves by putting a torture label on things that are "obviously not torture", it's discomfort. O'Reilly seems particularly concerned about how we're viewed on this issue, although he has repeatedly dismissed world opinion on our correctness in fighting the so-called "war on terror", and closed the segment with a pained "they're laughing at us. They're laughing at us!"

After the Memo he said we would get another view of this, but brought on D'Amato (yet another graduate of Chaminade High School, like O'reilly) who was in complete agreement and not surprised that they were all "afraid" to take on O'Reilly, and certain that their principled stance would hurt them politically. Odd how they never think that for every diehard "strict father" torture-endorser they might lose, they'll possibly gain a relieved, principled, moderate. Best not to introduce the notion that these four represent the right thing to do. After all, if it's OK to oppose Bush on this issue, what floodgates of opposition might they open? FOX shudders at the thought.

D'Amato (military service: none) and O'Reilly piled on the absent opposition and O'Reilly role-played, saying that "they" would say torture has never yielded good intelligence, and answered himself by citing Abu Zubaydah, who allegedly "gave up" KSM, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, under "coerced interrogation."

O'Reilly again resorted to the emotional appeal, using one of D'Amato's fourteen grandchildren as the hypothetical vicitim of a kidnapping and, invoking the memories of Nick Berg and "that Wall Street Journal guy, Pearl," said that McCain is telling him that the CIA can't get anything beyond name and where they're from from a prisoner who might know where the victim is? BOR is worked up over this possibility. These Senators, he says, can't answer that question, and that's the reality of what we're dealing with.

D'Amato says they're out of step with the American public, what we demand and expect, and Bush is right on this. The world will not say that America has the moral high ground (if we don't authorize torture techniques), and now entering into this "make-believe land" to portray us as good guys is a lot of nonsense.

O'Reilly agreed that America claiming the moral high ground is a lot of nonsense and asserted that Bush will get most of what he wants, and looked surprised when D'Amato insistently interrupted saying he believes he (Bush) may not, unless they' spell out the techniques we're talking about, then he can win it. O'Reilly agreed, saying Newsweek spelled them out and he spelled them out in the TPM. Well, that should be good enough for the US Senate, eh? Oversimplified, biased, dismissive talking points as basis for a decision that will affect the heart and soul of this country for years to come.

O'Reilly had one more question for D'Amato/McCain (he pretended again that D'Amato was McCain and posed the question as if McCain was sitting there, squinting eyes and jabbing fingers and all, in a bizarre bit of theater). He knows that McCain's opposition is based on his own experiences and his fear that, should we relax our standards, our soldiers will be exposed to torture by our enemies in the future, and after detailing some of the tactics McCain was subjected to asserts that our "bending over backwards" will not save us from terrorists.

D'Amato seemed taken aback by the strange demonstration, but given the final word he said he would give McCain a pass, as he has been scarred by his experiences - so traumatized, in fact, that D'Amato thinks McCain can't face the impact of what his restrictions would do.

Apparently he is not scarred enough for D'Amato and O'Reilly to defer to his personal knowledge and understanding of the realities of such matters, which are only concepts to the inexperienced chickenhawks. What a circular argument - McCain is so traumatized by being tortured that he is not fit to demand restrictions on torture to save our soldiers from a future trauma of their own...

In spite of having said D'Amato/McCain could have the last word, O'Reilly, both pointers jabbing, closes the segment with a soundbite from on high (his high horse, as it were): "The America-haters are still going to hate us, and coerced interrogation is necessary to protect every human being in America."

D'Amato did get the last word, though, and said that "Remember, we define it, and it's not torture, so let's be clear when we answer the Professor - i's not torture, it's reasonable interrogation."

There you go - it's necessary for our security (like illegal warrantless wiretapping, chapped dry airplane flights, and racial profiling), and if we just rename/reframe it, it can be sold to the public.

Fair and balanced? I know O'Reilly is kvetching that the Senators didn't drop everything to be on his show (so he had to insult them and mock them - he is SO into punishment!), but this pretending to be both sides himself was just weird. In an unsurprising outcome, though, he and the pro-administration viewpoint prevailed. Who would have guessed?