Believe it or not, Bill O’Reilly’s chief complaint about President Obama appearing on Funny or Die with Zach Galifianakis yesterday seems to be that Obama will be (further) diminished in the eyes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a result. It's a neat twofer - attacking Obama for going on the "Between Two Ferns" show in the first place and then using it to clobber him again over Putin. Sadly, the so-called Democratic strategist let O'Reilly get away with it.
Yesterday, in his Talking Points Memo, O’Reilly said he was “just asking” whether or not the president’s appearance on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns” would help counter the weakness that O’Reilly (and every other Fox rightie) is certain Putin sees in Obama. In the very next segment, O’Reilly put aside the pretext of a question. He repeatedly complained to Democrat Chris Kofinis that Putin sees Obama as a lightweight – even though the only evidence cited was Putin’s “body language”:
KOFINIS: I’m not really worried about Vladimir Putin watching Two Ferns. I think that he’s probably more concerned and more offended by Zach Galafianakis’ ‘Hangover 3’ movie than he is about the president going on…
O'REILLY (interrupting): Why aren’t you concerned, though? Don’t you believe that Putin believes, himself, that President Obama’s not a formidable opponent? …Don’t you think Putin thinks that Obama is a lightweight?
O’REILLY (interrupting): What evidence formulates that opinion? His body language, his contempt for the United States, his ‘I’ll do what I want and F.U.’ attitude. You think he’s gonna do that to somebody who’s gonna hurt him?
KOFINIS: I think he has his agenda and he is going to pursue that agenda regardless of who the president is.
That was well done on Kofinis' part as far as it went. But Kofinis is another one of those nice, likeable Democrats who goes on Fox and rarely, if ever, challenges its agenda. It's not that Kofinis didn't make intelligent, reasonable and well-spoken points, it's that that's not what O'Reilly or Fox is really about. Why Kofinis didn’t demand O’Reilly provide evidence that Putin has based any of his Ukraine decisions on his perception that the United States is weak or that he would possibly care that the president appeared on Funny or Die is beyond me. Just the very notion that Obama should decide which interview to do based on what Putin thinks suggests more weakness than any “signal” sent from the Funny or Die set.
Kofinis did kinda sorta go after Republicans for criticizing Obama in the middle of the Ukraine crisis.
O'REILLY: The point is perception, is it not? Isn’t perception important in this world with the crazy North Korean guy, the mullahs in Iran, Putin running around topless and killing tigers or whatever he’s doing on Thursday? Isn’t it perception and right now don’t we have a perception problem in this country?
KOFINIS: Perception is clearly an element when you’re talking about international politics. But Bill, if you want to make it a point about perception, then I think you can be fair to criticize Republicans and others who basically are openly criticizing the president during an international crisis.
That’s about as mild a challenge to the attacks as could possibly be made. But Kofinis immediately mitigated that by adding that he thinks it fair to criticize the president “for what show he’s going on or not.”
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. A Fox News host talks up the prowess of a Russian dictator as part of a bloviating harangue against our president over an internet interview which, by the way, did its job of promoting health insurance to young people. And a so-called Democratic strategist pussyfoots in his responses.
Assuming for the moment that Putin and/or his people base their opinions of our government and president on what they see in American media, what is more likely to shape that opinion: a single 5-minute streaming video from a comedy website, or the non-stop, 24/7 bash-fest of the American administration by a prominent cable “news” channel?