Is it shtick or sincerity? Bill O'Reilly loves to portray himself as a down-the-middle straightshooter, and there he was this morning on the Today show in full pox-on-both-their-houses mode.
Katie Couric began the interview by asking his take on the Plame affair:
O'Reilly: "Outside the Beltway and New York this story is non-existent. If Libby or Rove get indicted it becomes an enormous story."
Exclaimed a jocular O'Reilly: " All I want is for Russert to be arrested - can we have that; can we get him arrested in chains?"
O'Reilly seemed ready to move on, but Katie jumped on the bone O'Reilly had thrown her.
Couric: "Do you think, as you said, if there's an indictment it becomes a huge story?"
O'Reilly: "I don't know if the Bush administration can get through a Rove indictment, maybe a Libby." And just what does that mean? What would constitute not "getting through" in O'Reilly's mind? Katie didn't ask.
Trying to burnish his image as a middle-of-the-roader, O'Reilly observed that "there are nasty people on both sides" who use smear and innuendo to attack opponents.
Then it was on to Harriet Miers. Katie quoted from a Los Angeles Times editorial:
"If Harriet miers were a soft drink she would be New Coke. A carefully marketed product that no one is buying."
Asked Couric: "Why do you think she is such a tough sell?"
Here's where O'Reilly went into "ideologue" overdrive:
"The ideologues on both sides . . . don't like her."
"The hard right want an activist conservative judge, the hard left want an activist liberal judge."
And again: "The ideologues don't like her."
"Of course it's all about abortion. The ideologues on both sides are crazed about abortion."
"The left is never going to vote for her in terms of the abortion issue. She goes to church - they're not going to vote for her. If you are an evangelical Christian in this country you're demonized right away on the left. You're a bad person - fanatic, crazy."
Distancing himself from right and left, O'Reilly observed: "I feel bad for her. Give her a chance, hear what she has to say and make up your mind."
My two cents says O'Reilly's "fiercely independent" act is just that. But hey, what do I know? I'm an ideologue ;-)
Finkelstein has degrees from Cornell, SUNY Buffalo and Harvard. He lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts "Right Angle," a local political talk TV show. He is currently seeking a publisher for his anti-terrorism thriller, "Albergue Olimpico."