That Pre-Game Obama Interview

by Conor Friedersdorf

I finally got around to watching Bill O'Reilly's Sunday sitdown:

As Dish readers know, I am a critic of President Obama's health care bill, the fact that he continues to wage the War on Drugs, and especially his abysmal record on civil liberties. I also think many of his most strident critics on the right are loony, whether it's Dinesh D'Souza's claim that he's a Kenyan anti-colonialist, or Andy McCarthy's notion that he is allied with radical Islamists in a Grand Jihad against America, or Rush Limbaugh's various portrayals of him as a plotting, foreign seeming man bent on damaging the United States.

The interview above helps illustrate how the talk radio right's strategy is likely to backfire. Unlike a coherent, forceful critique of Obama's policies, an emphasis on his supposed otherness works on many Fox News viewers only until moments like the one when he sits down across from Papa Bear on Superbowl Sunday... and appears to be a perfectly pleasant, reasonable-seeming, unmistakably American man – one who maintains his cool, friendly demeanor, is respected by O'Reilly, and can even talk football.

It's hard to be scared of that guy. And while the cognitive dissonance isn't ever fully acknowledged or processed, the gulf that separates the loony right's portrayal of Obama from how he comes across to the average person can only result in most people dismissing a line of attack on which the right spends a lot of its time and energy.

A final thought.

Bill O'Reilly is allegedly a tough interviewer and Fox News a hostile network. But only if your idea of toughness is rhetorical bluster. It's ironic that a guy like me – the scourge of Mark Levin and his ilk – would've asked President Obama incomparably tougher questions had I been given a sitdown with him.