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Pinheads or patriots: O'Reilly and Obama

By Dr. Jack Kerwick
web posted February 14, 2011

Barack Obama and Bill O'ReillyOn February 7, one day after he interviewed President Obama, Bill O'Reilly informed Martha MacCallum on America's Newsroom that he is just now, for the first time, looking carefully at Obama's first memoir, Dreams From My Father.

Just a few short years ago, Barack Obama ascended from obscurity to become a chief contender for the presidency of the United States.  There isn't a voter in America who should be excused for not having read him in his own words, especially given that the subtitle of his first book alone—A Story of Race and Inheritance—makes it impossible for all with eyes to see that Obama is, first and foremost, "a race man." That a self-styled journalist like O'Reilly should fail to have attended to it is nothing less than scandalous.  

Remote are the chances that O'Reilly's confession to MacCallum will gain any traction in the next news cycle.  As painful as it is to admit this, it is much more likely than not that the vast majority of his colleagues in the very "mainstream media" to which he presents himself and his employer as alternatives are guilty of this same transgression—even if they don't view it as such.  This, in turn, is a function of another similarity: neither O'Reilly nor his colleagues are interested in seeing Obama as he is. 

I admit, I don't particularly care for Bill O'Reilly.  Far be it from me to deny him the praise he deserves for the good work that he has done, for there is no denying that on many an occasion he has indeed provided a genuine service to the nation. But what is true of O'Reilly is no less true of many others who are not necessarily particularly likeable. There is more than one reason informing my judgment of O'Reilly, but they ultimately boil down to this: O'Reilly is, to put it as charitably as I can, intellectually dishonest. If ever anyone needed confirmation of this, his admission to not having read Dreams on America's Newsroom is it.  

Like the insecure high school student who both longs for the acceptance of the "in crowd" and pursues it by distancing himself from and ridiculing his peers who have been excluded from it as well, it is difficult to resist the impression that O'Reilly's first concern is to gain the respect of his peers in the left-wing media.  To this end, he continually advertises his standing as an "independent," qualifies his criticisms of the left with criticisms of "the far right," and, to the present point, denies the obvious about Obama. 

But let us be clear about this last.  Obama is a Democrat and he is the president, it is true; yet he is also black. And in contemporary American politics, there is no greater persona non grata than "the Racist"—the White "Racist," to be exact.  Thus, to garner the favor of the establishment—i.e. the self-appointed "guardians" of leftist orthodoxy—O'Reilly has made the same deal with the Devil made by all who prefer popularity to truth, for the good that he seeks come at the steep price of a loss in integrity.

Think about this for a moment.  Obama was the first serious black contender for the presidency in all of American history, and he was a candidate about whom nothing was known as far as national politics is concerned.  That O'Reilly didn't bother to read Dreams under these circumstances is unacceptable. That the revelations regarding Obama's intimate and long-standing relationship with Jeremiah Wright still didn't suffice to motivate him to purchase a copy is unforgivable. 

Does anyone for a second think that if (per impossible given our political climate) an unknown white presidential candidate were known to have had an especially close relationship with a controversial figure given to engaging in racially incendiary tirades, and if this same candidate were to have authored a book whose subtitle alone explicitly disclosed its racial theme, that either O'Reilly or any other "journalist" would have waited a period of years after his election to read it?  The question is inescapably rhetorical.

Whether through advertence or inadvertence, O'Reilly (like the rest of his brethren on "the right" in the punditry class) refuses to come to terms with "the authentic Blackness" that has been a lifelong preoccupation of Obama's.  If it is inadvertence that accounts for his aversion, then his incompetence is monumental and he has no right being a journalist or commentator.  If, as I suspect, O'Reilly chooses to ignore Obama's racialism, then he suffers, as I charge, not primarily from incompetence, but from dishonesty—and no small shortage of cowardice.  

How, we must ask ourselves, could any of us, much less someone who has been around for as long as O'Reilly, not realize that Obama is a man for whom racial "authenticity" means much, if not all?  If the 450 pages or so of his first memoir isn't enough to convince one of this, what about his 20-plus year membership in the church of Jeremiah Wright, a man who Obama referred to as his "spiritual mentor," the man, who he said, "brought him to Christ," the man who he asked to marry him and baptize his children? 

And since Obama has been president, there is much that he has done and said—from his snubbing of such traditional allies as England and Israel, to his intervention in Henry Louis Gates' incident with police, to referring to the opponents of amnesty—the vast majority of whom are white—as the "enemies" of Hispanics—that fits seamlessly with all of this.

But the Obama upon whom O'Reilly chooses to set his sights isn't nearly as dangerous as the real Obama—that is, Obama as he sees himself; rather, O'Reilly's Obama is the Obama of his own imaginings. 

Interestingly, it is in Dreams that Obama laments that the relations between blacks and whites can never be "pure." In his estimation, the races will never accept one another as they really are, but only on the terms that each imposes upon the other.

Had O'Reilly read Dreams, perhaps he would have learned a thing or two from the real Obama. ESR

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. is the proprietor of the new blog The Philosopher's Fortress which can be found at www.jackkerwick.com.  

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