Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly gave President Obama an ISIS "I told you so" in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, calling for more military action immediately. Many Americans share the combative host’s frustration after ISIS beheaded two U.S. journalists.
“I think that he has to be tougher and send a message,” O’Reilly said. “We told him months ago that ISIS was becoming problem and he didn’t take it seriously and he didn’t formulate a strategy.”
The White House is now set to expand its ISIS bombing targets, and the president will address the nation tomorrow on the new policy. O’Reilly said he’s been on the ISIS horse since early June when the capture of Mosul received widespread media coverage. His ISIS stance aligns with the conservative populism he’s been pegged to before.
An ABC News / Washington Post poll shows a dramatic decline in the president’s support, including a career low of 38 percent support on foreign policy and a majority saying he’s been too cautious in his ISIS response. In June, 45 percent of Americans favored air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. Now, 71 percent do, and 65 percent support striking ISIS in Syria as well. The president will be eyeing the midterm election and his political demands alongside his hopes to avoid another Iraq war.
Of course, O’Reilly famously supported the push for war in Iraq, only to apologize in 2004 and say he was wrong to believe the Bush administration’s reports of weapons of mass destruction. O’Reilly told Ramos that he’s given Bush and Obama equal treatment, reiterating the “mistake” he made on Iraq.
“I didn’t let him get away with it in the sense that I made it quite clear that he and his administration weren’t effectively waging war in Iraq,” O’Reilly said of his interviews with Bush that were criticized for being soft. Just as he claims to have no political bias, O’Reilly said that no political leader escapes his scrutiny.
"I’m hard on them all. VP Cheney did not want to come on the program while he was in office. Bush came on three times and I gave him the hardest questions I could give him. We are now in a position where 70 percent of the American people think that the country is going in the wrong direction,” O’Reilly said, affirming his attention to poll numbers. “So you’re telling me that I shouldn’t be hard on the Chief Executive?”
O’Reilly also said that 9/11 helped insulate President Bush from stronger criticism.
“If under President Bush 70 percent of the public thought we were going in the wrong direction, I certainly would’ve,” O’Reilly said. “It wasn’t the same situation because of 9/11.”
O’Reilly refused to acknowledge another form of favoritism—that of white privilege. He faced a backlash recently after denying that the phenomenon exists, though it was difficult to parse his statements.
Ramos tied the white privilege controversy to those who believe that racism played a part in the killings of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Missouri.
“I respect that belief, but I don’t believe it is based on facts,” O’Reilly said. “You’re jumping to conclusions. Do you think that this police officer in Ferguson woke up and said 'I’m going to kill a black man'? Do you believe that he hated black people?”
Regarding white people’s overall advantages, Ramos referenced a New York Times op-ed responding to O’Reilly and showing the divide between whites and blacks.
“And Asians are doing much better than whites,” O’Reilly said. “Is it an Asian privilege that Asians do better than whites?”
O’Reilly has acknowledged the widespread belief that Asian-Americans have a much different history of skilled immigrants and economic opportunity that contrasts with a history of slavery and oppression. Ramos mentioned that this question doesn’t get at the existence of white privilege, which he said is at play in income, health, and other disparities.
“It’s not,” O’Reilly responded. “It’s a problem-solving thing. I want black culture to examine itself. Why are our problems so intense, why do we have these problems? Then police their own culture. The government cannot solve those problems if you have 72 percent of children born out of wedlock. You’re going to have poverty.”
O’Reilly puts the blame at the feet of a black culture that he says is unwilling to change and quick to deflect blame for its problems. His critics contend that this stance only makes it harder for blacks to succeed, as they constantly hear about their own deficiencies and others absorb justifications for casting blacks aside.
“I think we all have an equal shot at it, if we do the things necessary to succeed,” O’Reilly said.
It’s just the sort of argument that O’Reilly has embraced on his way to the top. As ever, he shows no signs of backing down.
Colin McDonald is a writer, journalist, and editor wrangling words for AMERICA with Jorge Ramos who is probably on the golf course otherwise.