Friday, September 23, 2005

O'Reilly vs Donahue: The Deathmatch

So did anyone see this clash of the titans (originally broadcast on The O'Reilly Factor on September 21, then interrupted by breaking news and re-broadcast on September 22)? O'Reilly invited Donahue to talk about his support for Cindy Sheehan and his opposition to the war in Iraq.

I have my issues with Bill O'Reilly. But on this occasion, I think he wiped the floor with Donahue.

Take their discussion of Sheehan:

DONAHUE: And FOX is in the business of saying that this woman is somehow saying un-American things. Hyperbole.

O'REILLY: No, no, no, no.

DONAHUE: Listen to what she's saying.

O'REILLY: Nobody said she said anything un-American. We say that her positions are radical. And they are radical.

DONAHUE: Let me tell you what's radical. What's radical is to send more Americans to die in this war, which is a monumental blunder...

O'REILLY: All right.

So Donahue completely evades the issue of what Cindy Sheehan actually stands for (and why it's a seriously bad idea for the anti-war movement to make her its spokeswoman).

Then there's this:

DONAHUE: You want to stay the course, don't you? You don't...

O'REILLY: Look, here's what I want to do. I want to give the Iraqis a chance to train their army so they can defeat these people who are trying to turn it into a terrorist

DONAHUE: Bill...

O'REILLY: That's what I want to do.

DONAHUE: Bill...


DONAHUE: Iraq was not a terrorist state.

O'REILLY: Oh, no.


DONAHUE: I hope I don't patronize you for thinking that.

O'REILLY: He was a swell guy. He was...

DONAHUE: Saddam — Saddam was a bastard. But he was our bastard.

O'REILLY: He wasn't anybody's...

DONAHUE: Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the '80s.

I have big issues with how the war in Iraq was sold to the public and how it was conducted, but I think O'Reilly is right: an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would virtually guarantee that it would turn into a murderous terrorist state, with terrible consequences both for Iraqis and for the rest of the world. Whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a terrorist state is not very relevant to this question (my own take on this: terrorist, yes; implicated in the September 11 attacks, almost certainly not). Whether Saddam was "our bastard" at one point is even more irrelevant (yes, we sided with Iraq in its war with Iran, but the United States' role in arming Saddam in the 1970s and 1980s was negligible compared to Russia and France). Donahue is clearly evading the question.

Then, Donahue resorts to the Michael Moore-ish low blow of "you wouldn't send your children to this war." (Has anyone told Donahue, Moore, et al. that parents in America do not "send their children to war" -- people enlist voluntarily?) O'Reilly, it turns out, has something to parry with: "My nephew just enlisted in the Army. You don't know what the hell you're talking about." There follows some ridiculous macho bluster by O'Reilly ("Yes, and he's a patriot, so don't denigrate his service or I'll boot you right off the set"), but on the basic point, O'Reilly's got Donahue pretty good:

O'REILLY: Don't tell me I wouldn't send my kids.

DONAHUE: Loud doesn't mean right.

O'REILLY: My nephew just enlisted. You don't know what you're talking about.

DONAHUE: All right. You — your nephew is not your kid. You are...

O'REILLY: He's my blood.

So O'Reilly's nephew his not his "kid." (Why does anti-war rhetoric consistently infantilize our fighting men and women?) But the fact remains that O'Reilly has someone very closely related to him serving (or about to serve) in Iraq, and this particular rhetorical stunt won't work.

In the end, O'Reilly hits the right note. He acknowledges that this was an "optional war" and possibly "a tactical error," a war badly conducted to boot. But he also stresses that if we leave, we abandon Iraq to the terrorists. And in respose to this, Donahue has nothing to offer but his own brand of bluster and references to Halliburton stock.

Winner: O'Reilly.


Anonymous said...
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DC Clipmonkey said...

Ms. Young, you're way off. O'Reilly came unglued. He completely lost control on his own show. I don't agree with what Donahue said, and am certainly no fan of the hysterical Cindy Sheehan, but Donahue made O'Reilly look unbalanced. I've never seen O'Reilly so defensive.

Anonymous said...

I came here via Andrew Sullivan's site. I saw the O'Reilly-Donohue flare up via Crooks and Liars the other day, and I have to say, I think you've got things exactly wrong. O'Reilly spun like mad: we're just calling her a radical (code word: traitor, probably a dyke), you're entitled to your opinion, yada yada ya, while alternately screaming at Donohue to, essentially, shut up, forgetting entirely, it seems, his complete demonization of Sheehan previously. Did Donohue raise his voice? Not at all. O'Reilly was apoplectic, then slammed Donohue the next day.

As for his nephew, his "blood," going to war, that's hardly the same as his son, whom he would have more direct guidance over, and knowing how O'Reilly lies, I would hardly be surprised if his nephew is actually the child of his sibling's spouse by a previous marriage.

Crankyboy said...

O'Reilly won? Unbelievable. I watched the segment and Bill lost it early and often. "MY NEPHEW IS SERVING...DON'T DENIGRATE HIS SERVICE!" No one did of course and if you checked out a chart of Halliburton (NYS: HAL) Phil was right. 33 to 66 in a year. Halliburton doubled in value. Did our efforts to protect our troops double in value? What did O'Lielly do to help? Scream and yell and call people radicals? I'm actually shocked Sullivan gave his stamp of approcal. Must be related to you.

Cathy Young said...

I respectfully disagree. I think O'Reilly did come off as a bit unglued where he started carrying on about his nephew and warning Donahue not to impugn his patriotism (which Donahue had not done). But I do think he made some strong points which Donahue totally evaded.

As for Cindy Sheehan, I don't think radical equals "dyke." I think "radical" equals stuff like "my son didn't join the US Army to die for Israel," "this country is not worth dying for," and "Lynne Stewart is a modern-day Atticus Finch."

Barry -- as always a thoughtful post. I happen to agree with O'Reilly on this one: we should stay long enough to ensure that the Iraqi army is able to fight the terrorists. (And yes, I prefer "terrorists" to "insurgents." We're talking about people whose primary targets are other Iraqis, including children.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think "radical" means "dyke" either, but people on the far right sure do, along with "traitor," "commie," et al.

Consider their rhetorical strategies. If Donahue evaded some points, as a good interviewer O'Reilly should have pressed him on them. Instead, O'Reilly reacted hysterically when Donahue took the offensive to things Donahue didn't say or even imply, becoming unbelievably defensive. Then Donahue pressed, staying calm and on point, not responding to O'Reilly's ridiculous attempts to sidetrack the argument, thereby destroying O'Reilly at his own game.

But what more can one expect from O'Reilly, who prefaced his interview with Bush by saying his integrity was based on not giving Bush the questions beforehand--which John Stewart rightly pointed as being the baseline of what one has to do and still be able to call the conversation an interview.

Cathy Young said...

Well, all I can say is -- I'm reporting my impression. Of course, I happen to think that Cindy Sheehan's nutty views are a legitimate issue if she's going to be a public figure, and an issue Donahue ducked; just as he ducked the issue of what was going to happen in Iraq after the American withdrawal.

Again, I'm not exactly a big O'Reilly fan. Half the time when I watch the show, I want to throw my remote at the TV, particularly when he starts going on about "secularists." And I think that Paul Krugman wiped the floor with him. But I still think he did pretty well on this one.

Anonymous said...

Between O'Reilly the Sexual Harasser, and Donohue the Professionally Emasculated, I really would have a hard time choosing sides. If I saw them debating, I'd be hoping to see them BOTH lose.


Anonymous said...

I've got to agree with the consensus here - O'Reilly came unglued, instead of pressing Donahue to specify what he said about Ms Sheehan that was inaccurate or pointing out that we have a volunteer military.

"In the end, O'Reilly hits the right note. He acknowledges that this was an "optional war" and possibly "a tactical error," a war badly conducted to boot."

I know several people serving in Iraq, and the story I get about how the war is being conducted is wildly at odds with what I see in the news. Most of the milblogs back up what I hear from them. I'm not qualified to judge what's going on myself, but if the gullibility and ignorance I see from the press in areas I do have some expertise in is representative, I have to take assessments like "tactical error" and "badly conducted" with a huge grain of salt. I don't know if he's right or wrong - but I'm pretty sure he isn't qualified to assess things like that.

Donahue said this weekend's anti-war rally would be one of the largest ever. Anybody want to take any bets on that...

Anonymous said...

You can't be serious. O'Reilly was blithering.

Was Phil Donahue over the top? A bit but it's about time liberals pay conservatives back for their hot rhetoric.

And it isn't that Cindy Sheehan's opionions deserve criticism and scrutiny. You know very well that O'Reilly and ilk give them foremost position. It's no different than if you discredited everything O'Reilly said because he's a loofa-weilding phone sex freak.

Anonymous said...

Also came here via Andrew Sullivan's site and was mildly engaged until you described Saddam's regime as a terrorist state - brutal dictatorship is what you're looking for - it is an inherently political statement to describe the regime as a terrorist state. I disengaged completely when you finished with "almost certainly" not involved in 9/11. I really thought there was not a rational, adult being left on the planet who was still trying to create a connection between 9/11 and pre-war Iraq.

Cathy Young said...

With all due respect, I didn't see Donahue do anything other than spout rhetoric. He didn't make any serious points or respond to any of O'Reilly's questions, or address the issue of what would happen in Iraq following America's withdrawal.

Did O'Reilly "come unglued"? Not sure. I saw his yelling as macho bluster. In all fairness, the yelling was in response to Donahue's "you wouldn't send your kid to war" below-the-belt tactic (and I can definitely see how that would be particularly offensive to someone whose nephew had enlisted).


Was Phil Donahue over the top? A bit but it's about time liberals pay conservatives back for their hot rhetoric.

Of course that's exactly how right-wingers justify the hate-mongering of Ann Coulter and her ilk -- hey, Paul Begala and Michael Moore started it, we're just paying back in kind!

And it isn't that Cindy Sheehan's opionions deserve criticism and scrutiny. You know very well that O'Reilly and ilk give them foremost position. It's no different than if you discredited everything O'Reilly said because he's a loofa-weilding phone sex freak.

Cindy Sheehan's or Bill O'Reilly's sex life is irrelevant to their political stance. (Though personally, I do think that O'Reilly's loofah adventures make his pronouncements on sexual morality rather ... amusing.) Cindy Sheehan's political rhetoric is certainly relevant to her credibility as a spokeswoman for the anti-war movement.

I don't think Saddam was involved in 9/11. I stand by the "terrorist state" description. Saddam was paying money to the families of Palestinian terorrists. I think he did have connections to the international Islamofascist terror network, his secularism notwithstanding. And by the way, I do think the Saudis' terror connections deserve more attention as well.

Anonymous said...


As a preface, let me say that I like your site because, unlike Sully I have to say, you engage your readers one on one and you seem like reasonable person, even if I don't agree with you. I have no problem with disagreement, only poor forensics.

I realize that I've posted a bunch of times here, and I hope don't appear to be hijacking this conversation, but I was wondering what you thought of Wesley Clark's appearance on O'Reilly, in which he cautioned the general on having truck with Cindy Sheehan.

(Boy, is that an archaic way of putting it.)

Anonymous said...

O'Reilly "won." (*SMIRK*) He did come off as slightly unhinged, though. (*SMILE*) Bottom line, though, I'd agree with Cathy's scoring of the "debate." Dohahue came off a shallow and grasping. Yeah... he was CALM and low-key (compared to O'Reilly!) in his presentation, but I'll take facts and logic over "presentation" any day.

Cathy Young said...

Mr. Barker:

I wonder if O'Reilly's "unhinged" moments are truly spontaneous, or a part of his shtick?

angry young man:

No worries about "hijacking" the conversation! I have to say I may not always be able to engage commenters, for lack of time (I really, really don't want this to be The Blog That Ate My Life), but I'll do my best.

Re Wesley Clark: I was impressed by the exchange, which was quite ... gentlemanly on both sides. *lol* I do think O'Reilly has a point. The antiwar movement is not doing itself any favors by having a spokeswoman who spouts ultra-radical leftist rhetoric (with an anti-Semitic whiff about it too). I have friends who are very much against the war and the Bush administration, who initially supported Sheehan but totally turned against her once they found out about her comments and particularly her support of Lynne Stewart. I doubt that they'd ever go to any antiwar rally featuring Sheehan as a speaker.

iosephus said...

cathy, i got here via sullivan. i've read enough to decide i'll keep coming back to read you.

on this particular topic i dont think o'reilly "wiped" anyone or anything in this so called debate. im not an american, dont live in the u.s. either, i dont know much about donahue but i did watch more of the same from o'reilly, being his loud finger pointing annoying self, but thats just me.

for those who havent watched the video, you can check it out here: O'Reilly/Donahue

Cathy Young said...

Thanks, rebelliOn!

Anonymous said...

'Has anyone told Donahue, Moore, et al. that parents in America do not "send their children to war" -- people enlist voluntarily'.

Its true that people enlist voluntarily, but since they do not dictate foreign policy and only follow orders, in a sense, as a soceity, WE DO SEND OUR CHILDREN TO WAR. That is why the decision to go to war must be weighed so carefully. I saw the clip, not the entire show and i Have to say that O'Reilly absolutely did NOT 'wipe the floor' with anyone, in the end he was reduced to calling people he disagreed with, 'radicals'. The ammunition that the supporters of this war have been using is running low. I saw Christopher Hitchens on Maher last nite and as much as i disagree with Hitch, I felt a little saddened watching him. He sold his soul and reputation to support this president and this war only to see it all slip away so horribly and now when challenged by Maher all Hitch could do is to equate attacks on Pres Bush to attacks on Laura Bush, upon whom he bequeathed sainthood status.

your wrote:
'O'Reilly did come off as a bit unglued where he started carrying on about his nephew and warning Donahue not to impugn his patriotism (which Donahue had not done)'

When you have to stoop to this level to make your case...then you have no case to make at all. The ammo is running low.

Revenant said...

I'm never sure what people mean when they say "Iraq was not a terrorist state". It certainly qualifies as "a state that sponsored and sheltered terrorists" and "a state that terrorized its own citizens".

Anonymous said...

O'Reilly has his "act" down pat. It's made him a rich man! Does this mean his righteous indignation (*GRIN*) wasn't real? Nah... it just means he's a professional showman and knows how to play to his crowd. Frankly, though, he had every reason to be offended. Donahue too was playing to the camera... and he's been playing to it far longer than O'Reilly has been! Donahue was a household name years before any of us heard of Bill O'Reilly. I personally think O'Reilly would have been far more effective had he used icy contempt against Donahue as opposed to yelling and screaming, but... O'Reilly's the one making millions of dollars a year and I'm the one staying home on Sunday watching football and blogging because I have $10 left of my weekend spending money. (*WINK*)

Anonymous said...

'I'm never sure what people mean when they say "Iraq was not a terrorist state".'

I'm never sure what people mean when they say 'terrorist' since many of the actions deemed sufficient for the label have been committed by the US and its allies at some point in history. Would the Shah of Iran be considered a terrorist? So it seems to be that 'terrorism' is in the eye of the beholder...and we all know what you GOP people be holdin'!

Nonjatta said...

Ms. Young, the first comment on this post got it right, you are way off. Donahue came across as a man with a specific view of the world (probably right on this issue) trying sincerely to argue for it. O'Reilly came across as a cynical, spinning, marginal radical who had got a bit out of his depth.

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