Fox News contributor George Will wrote a scathing critique of Bill O’Reilly’s latest book – and O’Reilly reacted like a spoiled bully. But Will gave as good as he got.
O’Reilly’s latest book contends that Ronald Reagan was more seriously compromised when he was shot in 1991 than has been previously known. Will didn’t just dispute O’Reilly’s contention but used the kind of demonizing tactics O’Reilly would have used against someone who offended him. For example, Will wrote:
Styling himself an “investigative historian,” O’Reilly purports to have discovered amazing facts that have escaped the notice of real historians. The book’s intimated hypothesis is that the trauma of the March 1981 assassination attempt somehow triggered in Reagan a mental decline, perhaps accelerating the Alzheimer’s disease that would not be diagnosed until 13 years later. The book says Reagan was often addled to the point of incompetence, causing senior advisers to contemplate using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Well.
…The book’s perfunctory pieties about Reagan’s greatness are inundated by its flood of regurgitated slanders about his supposed lassitude and manipulability. This book is nonsensical history and execrable citizenship, and should come with a warning: “Caution — you are about to enter a no-facts zone.”
On Thursday night, O’Reilly invited Will on the show, claiming, “We harbor no ill will, pun intended.”
But on Friday, when Will appeared, the animosity seemed bottomless.
WILL: You’re something of an expert on misleading.
O’REILLY: You are lying.
O’REILLY: It is a laudatory book or you can’t read!
WILL: Your book does the work of the American left with its extreme recklessness.
O’REILLY: You’re a hack. You’re in with the cabal of the Reagan loyalists who don’t want the truth to be told.
I think it's safe to conclude these two seriously dislike each other.
Grab the popcorn and watch it below, from the November 6 The O’Reilly Factor.
BOR said the Will was obligated to have contacted him first to talk before releasing a column about him. Does BOR always contact the targets of his columns before he writes a column? And BOR said he has proof that Reagan loyalists tried to get his book shut down (by pressuring Ailes? Murdoch?). Well, then, why didn’t BOR have this proof on hand to read/show to Will and the folks?
As to the name calling BOR did – isn’t that the pot calling the kettle hack? ;-]
With regards to both Will and BOR, spot on, Truman.
What’s also interesting here is that O’Reilly is actually touching on something very real about the Reagan years that most right wingers don’t want to admit. Reagan was in fact addled and confused for much of his presidency. He was in fact easily manipulated by his cabinet and his advisors, perhaps more so than George W. Bush. He was in fact out of touch with what was happening to average people around the country. There are multiple accounts of his briefings needing to be simplified to an absurd level, to his ideas about politics and the world being strangely askew from reality. So O’Reilly has unwittingly stumbled into something very substantial about the Reagan Administration – but it’s something that the hardline right wing absolutely cannot tolerate being discussed.
Will’s condemnation of the book is based on two core principles. The first is that he will not countenance Reagan being presented in this fashion – it doesn’t jibe with the mythology Will has built for the past 35+ years of his career. The depiction of a confused, out-of-it Reagan would expose Will for what he was back in the day – a hard right apologist for the worst excesses of the Reagan Administration, and a constructor of tall tales to justify those apologies. Tall tales about a strong President who faced down the world and the Democrats at the same time. A strong president who sadly didn’t really exist. (Not to say that Reagan didn’t hold passionate views at times – but he was never able to articulate them without a strong speechwriter. George Schultz had this best in his own notes and testimony about an infamous exchange between Reagan and Weinberger, in which they apparently said:
Weinberger: Mr. President, selling these TOW missiles to Iran is a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. It is illegal. And trying to wash the sale through another country will not make it legal.
Reagan: I can handle the illegality, Cap. But I can’t handle that big, strong Ronald Reagan didn’t do anything to get the hostages out!
Weinberger: Mr. President, visiting hours are on Thursdays…
c.f. Peter Kornbluh and the National Security Archive
Will’s second core principle is more basic to this confrontation. He finds O’Reilly to be an unworthy person trying to present himself as an intellectual. This isn’t a political issue so much as it is a class issue. Will sees right through O’Reilly’s attempts to re-establish himself as a learned historian. And again, there are people on the right and the left who will agree with Will on this point. The fact is, O’Reilly is not a historian by trade or by experience. He’s a well-paid blowhard. For all the wealth and the attention, he’s still the same tantrum thrower who infamously screamed “We’ll DO IT LIVE!!!!” It’s no surprise that Will detests O’Reilly. And in this case, Will is understandably upset that O’Reilly is inadvertently playing up a narrative that would challenge Will’s entire career. O’Reilly, of course, seems totally oblivious to the consequences of his behavior here. Which is again, no surprise.
James Brady, on the other hand, was shot IN THE HEAD. And he didn’t seem to suffer any sort of significant mental decline (he did, of course, suffer partial paralysis and did experience some cognitive issues but by the time of his death, his neurosurgeon had said that Brady was effectively his old self in terms of brain activity).
Pass the popcorn!