Last week, Fox News’ “No Spin Zone” host Bill O’Reilly went on air to say, “Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead. And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”
On Monday I appeared on O’Reilly’s show. Predictably, he tried to pass off his comments as “satire.” I told him that the people of San Francisco don’t think the war in Iraq is a laughing matter, and that’s why they voted by 60% to oppose military recruiters in our public schools. San Franciscans want our troops home now and don’t want to replace them with more of our young people to kill and be killed in Iraq. Curiously, O’Reilly insisted military recruiters had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. When I asked him where he thought the young people who joined the military went, he started to bluster.
O’Reilly is nervous because calling on Al Qaeda to blow up a monument to fire fighters (Coit Tower) is over the top. No doubt, if a professor at any campus in the country said something like this, O’Reilly would be calling for his or her job.
But O’Reilly has been exposed as a hypocrite before. What’s got him frightened this time is that polls show that the majority of people in the country do not agree with him when it comes to Iraq. Instead, most of the country agrees with the people of San Francisco. Even Senator Bill Frist is now calling on President Bush to report to Congress on his plans for getting out of Iraq* someday, at least. O’Reilly is in a shrinking minority. And bullies are always uncomfortable when the odds turn against them.
O’Reilly’s Al Qaeda fantasies all by themselves are not that interesting. However, I believe that he is the canary in the coalmine of the Conservative Right. Scooter Libby is under indictment, Frist and Tom DeLay are in legal hot water, and the prosecutor’s sword is hanging over Karl Rove’s head. Both President Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings are so low that they had to fly 6,000 miles away to Asia to get some good press. O’Reilly’s heroes have had it their way for the past four years, and, while it’s been good for his ratings, it’s been bad for most of the American people. The Conservative Juggernaut is beginning to creak at the seams.
Unfortunately, the Democratic Party leadership seems content to sit by and watch as Bush and Co. to do as much damage as possible in the time they have left. But those of us who believe that the People of this country, and not the politicians, have always had to fight to expand our rights, from the Bill of Rights, to Abolition, to Suffrage to Civil Rights, ought not be so passive.
Towards the end of O’Reilly’s show, he began ranting that he wouldn’t back down from his comments about San Francisco. He took a swing at San Francisco because he believes we won’t swing back. He’s wrong.
I challenged him to come here and participate in a 60 minute, public debate, moderated by a neutral chairperson, to discuss two questions: should the United States withdraw our troops from Iraq and should military recruiters be allowed in our public schools. So now the ball is in his court.
Bill, either put your money where your mouth is and come to San Francisco for a fair debate. Or, as you so eloquently put it to guests on your show who get the better of you, shut up.
Todd Chretien was one of the authors of Proposition I, the College Not Combat initiative.