I may not be a football fan but there was one part of the Super Bowl coverage I was waiting to see: the much anticipated pre-game interview between President Obama and Bill O’Reilly. Ever since O’Reilly’s “We’ll do it live!” rant years ago on A Current Affair, he has been remembered for his hothead reactions and rages.
Would he scream and accuse the President in person today as he does from behind his desk on his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor?
It was more amicable than most would think. While the start was slightly uncomfortable and stuffy, both men quickly loosened up. O’Reilly who bated the President coyly from time to time, was not near as combative as his reputation or his nightly show. President Obama, as always, was the epitome of articulation and elegance.
This interview could teach our kids (and ourselves) a lot about getting along with people you don’t necessarily like.
It focused first on Egypt. President Obama said that Egypt is not going to go back to the way it was before pro-democracy protests shook up the country. He downplayed the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood would take a major role in a new government.
“I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt,” Obama said. “They don’t have majority support.”
At one point O’Reilly asked the President about Obamacare and inquired why the majority of people did not support Obamacare. Obama countered that the divide was pretty even and O’Reilly asked “Do you deny you’re a man who wants to redistribute wealth?”
“Oh absolutely, let me explain.” said Obama, and when he started to explain his position, O’Reilly cut him off and said “I know I listen to you everyday.”
With someone else, this could have been enough to go escalate into a heated interview, but Obama turned around the focus and brought it back to a peaceful exchange by saying “And I listen to you too. I give you credit, youve got a pretty big viewership.”
“Well, I try”, said O’Reilly.
Throughout the exchange, there was little defensiveness. I might even say for all appearances from this interview alone, you’d never know O’Reilly was such a fierce non-supporter of the President.
Some interesting lines from the interview:
O’Reilly: Is it true you’re moving a little to the center?
O’Reilly: You haven’t moved anywhere? You’re the same guy?
Obama: I’m the same guy.
O’Reilly: I hope you can do it.
Obama: I know you do.
O’Reilly: What has surprised you the most that you weren’t prepared for coming in?
Obama: Every decision that comes to my desk is something that no one else has been ever to solve. The longer I’m in this job, the more I enjoy it. The more optimistic I am about the American people and this country.
O’Reilly: Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?
Obama: The people who dislike you don’t know you. The folks who hate you, they don’t know you. What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that’s out there. They don’t know you. And so, you don’t take it personally.
O’Reilly: You don’t ever take it personally? Does it annoy you?
Obama: By the time you’re here, you’ve developed a pretty thick skin.
What can kids learn from the way these two men conducted themselves? That you can very civilly be around and speak with people you don’t necessarily like, and part of maturity is learning how to agree to disagree. There were no raised voices, no angry faces. In fact, there were more chuckles and laughs than anything.
Bill O’Reilly’s last words:
“I enjoyed talking with you. I disagree with you sometimes. I hope you think I’m fair to you. I try to be and I wish you well in the next two years. Nice to see you.”
The two men shook hands and went on their way.