Last night I touched on the demented highlights of Bill O’Reilly’s wild interview with George Will in “O’Reilly projects.” I’ve watched the video now a few more times. If you haven’t seen it, you may find it of interest. I’m not entirely sure I understand all his points, but I think each point O’Reilly makes is haywire.
O’Reilly begins with Will’s failure to call O’Reilly before publishing his “provocative column.” Michael Clemente said Will would call O’Reilly. Will had an obligation to call him before signing off on such a critical column. Will never did. Are you calling Clemente a liar? This is O’Reilly’s lead. Pathetic.
Our own Steve Hayward failed to call O’Reilly before signing off on the critical Washington Post column about O’Reilly’s book that he wrote with Reagan scholars Craig Shirley, Kiron Skinner and Paul Kengor. Will is in good company.
Will points out that O’Reilly has never seen the memo that is at the heart of O’Reilly’s revelations. The rest of O’Reilly’s rant proves this assertion by Will to be true.
Will states that the author of the memo repudiated it after meeting with Reagan. O’Reilly asserts that he repudiated the memo “under heavy pressure” and reads a quote from Michael Deaver in support of his point.
O’Reilly declares to Will: “You are lying.”
O’Reilly then cites Edmund (“Edwin,” if I heard right) Morris in support of this part of O’Reilly’s book. O’Reilly describes him as “the guy who wrote the bio.”
Many of us recall that Morris is the guy who wrote “the bio” in which Morris inserted himself as a fictional character. Will doesn’t bother to point that out, or to point out that there are a few other authors of Reagan histories beside Morris. Our own Steve Hayward, for example.
Will observes that O’Reilly failed to interview administration witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the issue. Will cites Ed Meese, George Shultz, and Jim Baker.
O’Reilly explains why: “They have skin in the game…emotion in the game…spin in the game.” Surely you recall the first law of historical research: Don’t talk to participants. The interview is going Monty Python on us.
Will says they have knowledge in the game.
O’Reilly says: “We don’t talk to anyone who is derogatory or laudatory.” That rules out a lot of people. Who’s left? O’Reilly doesn’t say.
O’Reilly then declares Killing Reagan “a laudatory book.” Bill won’t be talking to Bill anymore.
We begin the descent on our final landing. O’Reilly declares that Will is “a hack.” He consorts with the “cabal” of Reagan loyalists seeking suppression of the truth. They wanted the book killed, O’Reilly says. Will denies it. If so, however, it would have been a mercy killing.
UPDATE: At American Thinker Colin Flaherty provides a good counterpoint to my view of the segment in “George Will drew first blood.” Flaherty also has the quote form Deaver of which I had trouble making sense. As Flaherty has it, the quote supports O’Reilly’s rant.
PAUL ADDS: I agree with Scott, and if you have seen the video and don’t agree, you might want to watch it again. One first viewing, O’Reilly’s bluster and grand inquisitor style can deceive the viewer into thinking that the clash was a standoff. On second viewing and a moment’s reflection, it’s clear that O’Reilly is the loser.
His excuse for not talking to Ed Meese, George Schultz, and Jim Baker — they have “skin in the game” — is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. These people have skin in the game because they were players and, as such, have a perspective on what happened. A real historian will always want to talk to and/or read the views of as many such people as possible.
O’Reilly has equated having skin in the game with having a perspective that doesn’t support his contrived “killing” theme. If you disagree with O’Reilly, he doesn’t want to hear it.
As far as the interview with Will goes, it’s O’Reilly who has skin in the game. He’s battling to save his credibility as a writer about history. His performance reeks of desperation. But you should still watch it.