Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Dr. Faber sent me a lead this week, hoping I’d be willing to take on the bull-headed Bill O’Reilly head-to-head. The topic? My choice, actually.

Earlier this week, the popular Fox News Channel talk show blowhard challenged his viewers to debate with him on his nightly program. Scheduled to air February 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, and 22, six winners will have the opportunity to spar with the Big O on the topic of their choice.

Cowboy Bill is not afraid.

“You want a piece of me?” he asked on his show this week. “Would you like to sit on this set right here and let me have it? Of course you would. Now, now that can happen.” The pompous egomaniac went on to warn viewers to be careful what they wish for.

Sorry, Dr. Faber – there are some people you just can’t argue with and O’Reilled Up is one of them. I wouldn’t stand a chance under the heat of all those lights. He's polished and he's got technique. He knows how to berate and belittle his guests, overbearing them with loaded questions while painting his "no spin zone" full of hyperbolic modifiers and descriptors from "ludicrous" to "outrageous" to "insane" to "completely ridiculous." And the irony of the "no spin zone," of course, is that labeling it a "no spin zone" is actually SPINNING the program as a beacon of objectivity in a sea of sugar-coated partiality - when anyone who's ever watched the show can tell you it's about as spin-free as the Fox News Channel is "fair and balanced."

But some folks are gluttons for punishment – so I’m sure O’Reilly will have no problem finding people to “debate” with him. Anyone up for tackling the impossible can enter by e-mailing

Generally speaking, debates serve the purpose of sharing perspective with the goal of influencing opinion. But, by and large, most people already have their minds made up beforehand – especially those willing to bring their POV to a worldwide television stage. As a result, there aren’t going to be any epiphanies on the Factor. No one is going to make a point so strong and irrefutable that the other person instantly sees the light and changes his or her mind. It seldom, if ever, happens. The human ego doesn’t work that way. We tend to cling to our beliefs, even when we know we are and have been misled, misinformed, or grossly mistaken. This is ESPECIALLY true when we are making our case in front of a lot of people. It would be hard to imagine a presidential debate during which one candidate stops in the middle of a counterpoint to admit:

“You know what? You’re right. I don’t know why I’ve been arguing against school vouchers. Choice makes far more sense. Pouring money into failing schools is not the answer. Choice encourages competition, which weeds out the weak and improves performance over time. I concede this topic to my opponent. Next question.”

Debates don't work that way. And in party politics, members are told what position to support for unity's sake. Tow the line or get out of the party. Those members particularly popular with the people with have a little more latitude - but not much if they're counting on party money for re-election. Interestingly, those politicians who stray from party lines are the ones who intrigue us most. Senator John McCain, for example, is a Republican who's got a record of challenging his party on major issues. We the people like stand-up personalities like McCain - party stalwarts do not. The issue is credibility. Who has more of it - the pol/pundit who argues each issue independently and on its own merit, or the one who stands in predictable support of the party platform? That's a rhetorical question, please don't strain your brain giving it serious thought.

But parties DO simplify things for people who don't have time to think about important decisions that affect our daily lives. Party affiliation means you can find one or two major issues (usually something socially divisive like abortion, gun control, or capital punishment) that put you in one camp or another and then punch a straight ticket on election day without having to bone up on the consequences of the countless policies your vote is potentially setting into action. Talk about punch drunk.

A part of me wishes we could just vote on the issues via referendum instead of having to elect representatives to vote for us. That would make America a true Democracy instead of a Republic...but true Democracies are equally flawed in that minority opinions are not well represented. Tweaking form of government is risky business with widespread implications, so when I become Lord Supreme I promise not to change things up too least not at first. Sometimes the devil you know does make better company. It's just so hard to find a single public servant representative of your entire body of beliefs. There's always going to be some degree of compromise. That's why I've always been a big fan of the site. It’s a great place to find out which political parties and religious groups would have you as a member.

But now I've rambled on for far too long. Is it lunch time yet?

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