Unavoidably it would seem, Fox News’ leading news pundit, Bill O’Reilly, will shortly interview President Obama for the second time. The Prez clearly could use a ratings boost and perhaps the same is true of O’Reilly, or perhaps he is just reinforcing his ratings.
The last time this occurred, Mr. O’Reilly, always a gentleman, did nothing to ruffle the presidential feathers and afterwards, received some flak for that. Mr. O’Reilly was (and is) King of cable news pundits and the President was King of well, whatever he is King of. They circled each other like two similarly sized dogs, neither inclined to fight. Each then went his way.
Mr. O’Reilly has been more critical of some of the President’s actions since then and Fox News is being blamed for various White House difficulties. Nevertheless, Mr. O’Reilly is ballyhooing the upcoming interview, so it seems likely to occur. What will take place this time?
Let’s examine the situation while ignoring the ballyhoo. It seems unlikely that there will be a third interview as the President is term limited. So no punches need be pulled, right? True, so far as it goes but how far is that? Mr. O’Reilly shows no signs of retiring and will want to interview future presidents; beating up this one won’t help that. The President is suffering with a 39 percent approval and certainly doesn’t need to have Mr. O’Reilly beat him up on the leading cable news show. So both have something to lose by an aggressive stance. And, as audiences tend to champion their favorites, little to gain.
Mr. O’Reilly is advertising that one of the questions he will ask the Prez will be selected from questions sent in by his audience. That is a pure gimmick, akin to the advertising labels worn on the sleeves of athletic jerseys. It tells us for openers that the interview will likely not be serious. And the political situation tells us that it will be carefully scripted with all exchanges vetted in advance by experts from each of the teams involved, Fox and the White House. Folks don’t get to those levels by opening themselves to unpleasant surprises, after all. These are pros, on both sides.
The President may choose to use the forum for some interesting announcement or comments. Or not. But it will be something far removed from a political Super Bowl. It might provide a suitable evening to invite the wife out to dinner, instead. In of course, our opinion…