"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Letterman, Schmetterman

I am glad that Hunter Baker posted a transcript of the recent dialogue between David Letterman and not-exactly-honored guest Bill O'Reilly on the former's TV program, below.

It is very revealing indeed. I never have liked Letterman, as I found his politics to be all too evident and all too peabrained from the very start. Nobody else with whom I spoke about this ever saw it this way, until now. By the audience's reaction of laughter and applause, it appears that they were in strong agreement with O'Reilly and that Letterman came off as an oaf and thoughtless jackass.

The exchange will have no effect at all on his popularity, I suppose, as most viewers will ignore Letterman's politics, which is fine. But nobody should ever imagine that he's on our side.

The heck with him, I say.

Let us pray for him to retire in comfort soon and be replaced by someone (a) funnier and (b) smarter.

18 comments:

James Elliott said...

"By the audience's reaction of laughter and applause, it appears that they were in strong agreement with O'Reilly and that Letterman came off as an oaf and thoughtless jackass."

Funny. The video I saw implies precisely the opposite.

S. T. Karnick said...

Interesting.

Jay D. Homnick said...

I think the truth lies somewhere in between. They each got big laughs at the expense of the other at different points in the exchange.

Remember also that the audience is enjoined by the ushers to laugh at anything the least bit clever that Letterman utters.

James Elliott said...

I think the disparity is explained by watching the video. I'm sure you can Google it. I found it on Salon.com, but I don't want to tarnish your pure eyes by sending you to that den of liberal sin. =] In many places where the transcript below denotes applause or laughter, it occurs over or concomitant to O'Reilly's responses to Letterman.

Hunter Baker said...

I don't think you need to see or hear the laughter to see who got the better of the exchange. Letterman looks like an idiot with his "I think you're full of crap," and "I'm not smart enough," and "I don't believe you" stuff.

I think he expected O'Reilly to be intimidated by the toughness of the interview and was surprised by the resistance.

He would have gotten further if he'd brought up the Loofah sponge thing!

James Elliott said...

You think so? If you watch the clip, O'Reilly's body language clearly reveals a man who, rather than revelling in the anger he normally displays, is clearly uncomfortable with having his honesty and acumen so bluntly questioned. Letterman's style is, I believe, precisely what unmans O'Reilly so. Most of O'Reilly's critics try to engage him on an intellectual or factual level, a level O'Reilly clearly refuses to honestly play on. Letterman just calls a spade a spade and rolls on. By refusing to engage in protracted battle, he places O'Reilly outside of his preferred mode of engagement and O'Reilly clearly can't handle it.

James Elliott said...

Could I have used "clearly" more often in that paragraph? Jeez...

Evanston said...

Letterman was at his best with guests like Wendy O'Williams cutting a car in half with a chainsaw while the Plasmatics played, Pee Wee Herman (before movie-making and movie-watching fame) giggling at idiocy... essentially showing nutty, unpredictable characters. He's now part of the Democratic Party's gerontocracy -- a dull, predictable hack. Except for his speeding tickets, which make him mildly interesting. Of course, obedience to government is only required of conservatives, to subsidize liberal academia, "art," "Public" television, social programs for Illegals, etc. So Lead Foot Letterman is one for the ages, but he has outlived his Age.

Devang said...

O'Reilly doesn't seem to get along with the host of any show that's not on FOX. He called Jon Stewart a pinhead when he was on the Daily Show not too long ago.

The whole freedom fighter thing was a joke, when given that pakistan, a close ally of the US calls terrorists freedom fighters and supports them. Somebody is being a hypocrite in fighting terrorism.

The whole interview reeked of O'Reilly/Bush Administration's possibly involutary, mantra of the problems we spell out are bigger and graver than the problems the liberals spell out. There is no culture war, and the percentage is close to 70%. The 30% is commercials...

James Elliott said...

Of course, obedience to government is only required of conservatives, to subsidize liberal academia, "art," "Public" television, social programs for Illegals, etc.

Yes, that's why the Republican states pay all of the taxes and receive none of the largesse...

Oh, wait, insert "Democratic" where I wrote "Republican." Man, if you're going to come to an ideological fight, at least have something to throw that sticks.

JC said...

Letterman just calls a spade a spade and rolls on. By refusing to engage in protracted battle, he places O'Reilly outside of his preferred mode of engagement and O'Reilly clearly can't handle it.
So by avoiding debate and sticking to dogmatic assertions, Letterman shows that O'Reilly can't handle not debating?


Hunter Baker's point is seen best in this little excerpt, I think.

"LETTERMAN: I'm not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling — I have the feeling about. [...]

LETTERMAN: I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap, but I don't know that for a fact.

O'REILLY: Sixty?

LETTERMAN: Did I 60 percent? 60 percent, that's just — I'm just spit balling here now.

O'REILLY: Listen, I respect your opinion. You should respect mine.

LETTERMAN: Well, I — I - yes, OK. [...]

O'REILLY: But you have to give me an example if you're going to make those statements.

LETTERMAN: Well, I don't watch your show, so that would be impossible.

(LAUGHTER)

O'REILLY: Then why would you come to that conclusion if you don't watch the program?

LETTERMAN: Because of things that I have read, things that I know.

O'REILLY: Oh, come on, you're going to take things that you've read? You know what they say about you? Come on.

(LAUGHTER)"

There he goes, calling a spade a spade and moving on. O'Reilly's full of crap, his show is not fair and balanced, but Letterman can't say why because he's never seen the show. Right.



Devang, if what you say is true, you should be complaining that some people call Pakistani terrorists "freedom fighters," not complaining that we call Iraqi suicide bombers "terrorists." I've never heard O'Reilly call Pakistani terrorists "freedom fighters."

James Elliott said...

JC, you are free to draw whatever conclusion you like from a cut-and-dry transcript. Watching the video, one gets not only the dialogue but the unspoken reactions: the body language, the unexpressed emotions, the uncomfortable shifting of hands and body. It is, I feel, a far superior medium to understand what occurred, and I stand by my analysis.

tbmbuzz said...

If you watch the clip, O'Reilly's body language clearly reveals a man who, rather than revelling in the anger he normally displays, is clearly uncomfortable with having his honesty and acumen so bluntly questioned. Letterman's style is, I believe, precisely what unmans O'Reilly so. Most of O'Reilly's critics try to engage him on an intellectual or factual level, a level O'Reilly clearly refuses to honestly play on. Letterman just calls a spade a spade and rolls on. By refusing to engage in protracted battle, he places O'Reilly outside of his preferred mode of engagement and O'Reilly clearly can't handle it.

O'Reilly's body language reveals someone who tries immensely - and successfully - to control himself in the face of Letterman's constant provocations. Letterman, like MOST of O'Reilly's leftist critics, engaged him on an emotional and completely uninformed level, not on an intellectual or factual level; even Letterman admitted as such! Letterman's modus operandi was to either insult O'Reilly or change the subject. Letterman demonstrated not only his abject ignorance but also his absolute lack of class.

James Elliott said...

O'Reilly's body language reveals someone who tries immensely - and successfully - to control himself in the face of Letterman's constant provocations.

We have completely different interpretations of that body language, then.

Letterman, like MOST of O'Reilly's leftist critics, engaged him on an emotional and completely uninformed level, not on an intellectual or factual level; even Letterman admitted as such! Letterman's modus operandi was to either insult O'Reilly or change the subject.

Most of O'Reilly's critics engage him by challenging his assertions in the polite, intellectual fashion. It's really quite refreshing to see someone just resort to "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

Letterman demonstrated not only his abject ignorance but also his absolute lack of class.

Letterman's whole schtick is self-denigration mixed with thinly-veiled crassness. What, he's supposed to change just because it's Bill "I saw combat, cuz you know, being a reporter in Grenada was so dangerous" O'Reilly (aka "Liar, liar, pants on fire; and those are the biggest pair of trousers in the world!")?

Matt Huisman said...

They both looked like losers if you ask me. Bill O'Reilly has always been one, but after watching the video - I have to say that (given his limited abilities) he came out of it quite well.

First, he took control right away with his Christmas humbug. What's Letterman supposed to do with that? He's virtually at BOR's mercy. If BOR was at all talented, he really could have earned some laughs.

Letterman eventually makes a painful transition, but manages to slip in a shot about BOR being connected to the Bush administration. BOR very adeptly shifts the topic from the war to the troops, and defends their honor. Letterman can't resist the chance to claim some moral high ground, and tries to make a quick crack about BOR's criticism of Cindy Sheehan. Even though Letterman got the applause here, it was a mistake and BOR responded very, very well.

At the end, Letterman's contempt for BOR is drawn out, and he throws out the 60% crap line - which gets a few giggles (it is his show) - but allows BOR to respond calmly and make Letterman look like an uninformed partisan hack.

This was destined to be a classic Letterman carve up. The aw-shucks, you're the genius-explain this-to-me interview where the guest leaves without even knowing what hit him - and BOR ended up flustering Letterman while walking away with plenty of material to show his base that the MSM is biased.

Like I said before, I can't stand the guy, and Letterman got a few more laughs (and they were weak) - but I guarantee you that BOR was more satisfied with his performance the Letterman was.

Hunter Baker said...

I think you're right, Matt. I hadn't thought about it, but it did have the makings of a usual Letterman "I'm so stupid but it looks like . . ." attack. O'Reilly saw it coming and fought back.

Believe it or not, I saw him try the same thing with Janet Jackson over the wardrobe malfunction. Her approach was just to shut down. Guarantee she'll never be on the show again. And neither will O'Reilly.

If O'Reilly did look uncomfortable, he should have been. He's used to controlling the give and take on his show. He knows it is a tremendous disadvantage to be the guest if political hostilities will be exchanged.

Evanston said...

James Elliott, sure I've seen the Red State vs. Blue State tax comparison and you're right, the Blue States are wealthier per capita and pay more than they get back when simply looking at tax revenue. However, my comment pointed out specific, discretionary subsidies for "liberal academia, 'art,' 'Public' television, social programs for Illegals, etc." It would be useful for you to examine the programs that send money to Red States and then identify which of these are "conservative" in nature. For example, Social Security is hardly a "conservative" program. And people move from Blue States to Red States: workers "pay" while living in the Northeast and Midwest and often receive their "government" money after moving to the Southeast and Southwest. So they were Blue when paying, Red when receiving, and it's all for a liberal program. Further, your dollar comparisons neglect the arena of regulation where conservative businessmen pay the hidden costs of "progressive" programs on a routine basis. For a more discrete, measurable example of the cost of regulation, read Thomas Sowell's recent articles on high housing costs for the average person in Blue States due to "environmental" or "controlled growth" regulations/legislation. If I may be a bit personal, what exactly are you studying, anyway, as a grad student? You're a good writer and I actually saw you apologize once for something, so you're not entirely dogmatic. Nonetheless, your Red State vs Blue State comparison was a simple repition of simplistic party propaganda -- I'm not blowing smoke up your behind, but you're usually more "nuanced" than this. I'd guess you're a government or social science major of some sort, but not Economics. You don't have to answer if you don't want to, I understand and respect the desire to keep personal things personal. Anyway, the main point of my post (and admittedly I stretched the point) was disappointment in Letterman. I've watched Letterman 100s more times than I'll ever watch O'Reilly, I even travelled to NYC once from Florida mainly because I got tickets to attend Late Night. But it makes my disappointment at his (dare I say?) artistic stagnation all the greater to see Letterman spout stupid stuff like "60% of what you say is crap" and then admit to never watching O'Reilly's show. Letterman's resting on his laurels, lazily drifting along in his cultural/political milieu and when challenged to bring up one "crap" statement, just one(!), says "...that would be impossible." Totally unprepared, blame his staff, blame him, whatever, but it's really sad. But I still like Dave's mom, if that counts for something.

James Elliott said...

I'm in a Master's of Social Work program, emphasizing public administration and policy (graduate in May). Trying to decide between law school or a PhD in social welfare for my post-grad in the next few years.

You make a good point about retirees who's migration increases the welfare recipience of Republican states. I hadn't considered that before.

I have to admit that Thomas Sowell is on to something with the "controlled growth" regulations (but you can ask anyone whose had a recent experience with northern California's floods what they think of allowing developers to forego environmental regulations). I went to undergrad in one of California's most liberal towns (Even the Daily Show made fun of the place - twice!), and the town's utter refusal to grow caused massive demand pressure on student housing and resulted in absurd home prices. That said, Sowell's theory doesn't explain places like San Jose, that grow as fast as human industry makes capable and still cost more than most regions. So, he's on to something, but it doesn't explain all.