This election season for me has been about challenging my own stereotypes and listening intently to all sides. This means I have added Fox News to my news review. I have been surprised by Bill O'Reilly, whom I previously had dismissed as an ignorant windbag, akin to Rush Limbaugh.
In my media studies (that's what I call it when I'm watching Fox), I have observed Bill-O ask some pretty compelling questions. His devil's advocate questions on actual policy issues are my favorites. Granted, his interviews seem to provide an encouraging atmosphere for the Right Wing and often engender hostile territory for "the liberals." But I'm seeing a side to him I didn't expect. Gasp, not everything he says is blustery blather. I nearly fell out of my chair today when I saw this quote from him, talking about Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama:
Bill O'Reilly: I don't endorse candidates, and I don't tell people who to vote for, but I learned something about him: that he's a sincere man and a tough guy. His policy is what he says it is. He's no phony.
Shocking. I never thought I'd hear Bill-O personalize Sen. Obama this way, let alone compliment him on his sincerity and honesty. Unless I'm just giving him too much credit. As I listen I do try to give him the benefit of the doubt when I can.
But here's where I take issue with Bill-O. In the follow up sentences, Bill-O provides his own interpretation of Sen. Obama's policies. He says:
Obama's "telling you: I'm going to set up a big government apparatus, I'm going to redistribute income and I'm going to use more soft power than hard power abroad."
Bill-O is close, but leaves out some major details. It's a misnomer to say that Sen. Obama will set up a big government apparatus, as if this would be a new thing or unique to Democrats. The Republicans already have set up a big government apparatus. It's called the Military-industrial complex. Our funds have been going to Big Republican Government for the past decade or more, but we haven't seen the benefits at home. The Republicans made the largest cuts to the federal student loan program in history, while driving our federal deficit to $407 billion with military spending and borrowing. In contrast, Sen. Obama would use federal revenue for domestic programs, in addition to the military, such as energy development, education, and health insurance.
The line that "Big Government" is what Democrats seek is simply a myth. Democrats have advocated reinventing government for several years to streamline operations and consolidate bureaucracies. The facts show The Republicans are the big government party - the big military government.
Bill-O says Obama says he is going to "redistribute income." If giving tax breaks to everyone making under $603,403 and raising taxes for the top 1% of the wealthiest in the country constitues redistributing income, perhaps. But the statement alone, without the context, muddies the waters. Against current policy, Senator Obama's proposals would raise $300 billion, and Senator McCain's proposals would lose $1.0 trillion.
As for using more "soft power" than "hard power" abroad, this characterization might leave a misimpression. Yes, Sen. Barack Obama believes in diplomatic solutions. Is this "soft"? In this context, the dictionary defines soft as "lenient, permissive, or conciliatory, esp. regarding something that is conceived of as dangerous or threatening: to be soft on Communism." It carries an innuendo that denigrates problem-solving skills outside of military action and fails to mention Obama's stated key goals:
"As we rebuild our armed forces, we must not simply recreate the military of the Cold War era. Obama believes that we must build up our special operations forces, civil affairs, information operations, and other units and capabilities that remain in chronic short supply; invest in foreign language training, cultural awareness, and human intelligence and other needed counterinsurgency and stabilization skill sets; and create a more robust capacity to train, equip, and advise foreign security forces, so that local allies are better prepared to confront mutual threats."
Does this sound soft?
While Bill-O has his own interpretation of Sen. Obama's policy plans, he nailed it when he said about Sen. Obama: "What he says is what he believes."
Not bad, coming from Bill O'Reilly.
Dennis Kleiman for TIME, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1840588,00.html (Sept. 11, 2008).
soft. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/soft (accessed: September 12, 2008).
Source: Tax Policy Center: A Preliminary Analysis of the 2008 Candidates' Tax Plans: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=411693
Source: Obama/McCain website, Defense Issues: http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/defense/