I agreed to go on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show recently to discuss progressive responses to Bush. I’m always ambivalent about participating in Fox talk shows. As one Nation reader said in a letter lamenting my appearance on the program: “It seems both demeaning to your stature as an actual reporter of fact-based news as well as lending undeserved credibility to the show.”
But I also feel compelled to take opportunities to speak to an “unconverted” audience. Click here for the transcript of the program, but also read below for what I was hoping would be possible when I said yes to the booker.
December 1, 2003 (Parallel O’Reilly Factor)**
O’REILLY: All right, Ms. Vanden Heuvel, is this strategy on the left going to succeed?
VANDEN HEUVEL: I hope it does, because if it does, America will be a safer, healthier, better educated, more secure society. Progressives are uniting, thanks to Bush.
O’REILLY: Well, I agree with your last point. Your magazine’s up fifty percent, right?
VANDEN HEUVEL: The Nation‘s circulation is up fifty percent…
O’REILLY: Then why are only twenty percent of Americans liberals?
VANDEN HEUVEL: That’s a meaningless statistic. Twenty percent of Americans identify with a label in some poll. The vast majority of people share core liberal values. Reproductive choice. Public education. Healthcare and Social Security without the profit motive. An internationalist foreign policy. Fair wages and fair taxation.
O’REILLY: The polls show that President Bush’s approval rating is well over fifty percent.
VANDEN HEUVEL: So what? An approval rating isn’t a blanket endorsement of his policies. Those numbers crash and burn when people learn about specifics.
O’REILLY: So you’re saying the American people are stupid.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Just the opposite. They’re misinformed, and in some cases deceived. I think there should be a marketplace of ideas in this country that reflects a much fuller range of political opinion that we currently see.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I disagree. Something like the New York Times is basically liberal on social issues. But where’s the serious discussion of a living wage in this country? Of universal health insurance? Of the fact that the Iraq war violated international law? These are the nuts-and-bolts progressive issues, but you won’t hear them in the so-called elite liberal media. Much of the media is elitist because it usually serves corporate interests or follows the official line. And whatever you think of NPR and PBS, they’re no match for it, not only because they too depend increasingly on corporate money to survive.
O’REILLY: But you have the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, bashing Bush, saying if we elect a Democrat, all the problems are going to be solved, just like they were under eight years of Mr. Clinton. All the problems were solved, yes.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You’re equating the left with the Democratic Party. The Nation was very critical of both Clinton and Gore. We need to reassert the core progressive values that most Americans see as perfectly reasonable, may of which were not ones upheld by Clinton. This is what the Democrats need to do if they want to start winning elections again. But progressives also need to build independent political capacity, inject some passion and principle into our politics. Hell, one out of two eligible voters don’t even vote.**The above conversation never happened–and it’s unlikely to on Fox TV.