I couldn’t believe what I was watching: there was Dave Letterman bitchslapping Fox News Channel blowhard Bill O’Reilly on The Late Show Friday night. It did my liberal soul proud. Full video here. But, then, I’ve written before about Letterman’s fearlessness when it comes to politics. In Dave The Brave (April 2004), I praised the TV host for having “the brass balls to go where the cowardly White House news corps and corporate suck-up Leno fear to tread: presenting Dubya in all his dumb-ass glory.” Dave’s performance was in sharp contrast to that of Jay Leno, who softballed recent guests Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ann Coulter. (And Leno still won’t give equal time to Arnold’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent Phil Angelides, which stinks.) Letterman’s audience cheered when Dave called Bill “a bonehead” and won round after round. O’Reilly wasn’t able to level even one decent comeback, instead continually turning to the crowd to claim Dave was “acting” and “we’re really friends and in a bowling league together.” (Bill repeated that over and over — even though it didn’t get one laugh.) Actually this was Round 2 of Dave vs Bill (first round this year took place in January). The Fox talker started off the segment by entering with a sword and shield, as if he were ready for a fight. Letterman looked at O’Reilly’s childish show-and-tell items disdainfully, cutting him down with: “That’s cute. You came out with toys.” Here’s a rough account of what went down from Letterman’s own Wahoo Gazette show online newsletter:
Dave jumps in, “Am I right about this? You guys over there at FOX and guys like Rush Limbaugh, you guys know it’s all a big goof, right? You’re just horsing around. You’re doing it because you know it’ll be entertaining.”
Bill wants some clarification: “What is it we’re ‘doing’?”
Dave begins to answer, but then says, “Well, see here you got me, because I’ve never seen . . . .”
Bill shakes his head and points out, “You’ve never seen the show?”
Dave says he doesn’t even know how to find the show. He says when he turns on FOX, it’s always The Simpsons.
Dave asks Bill ‘How will this election turn out?’
Bill says he thinks it’ll turn towards the Democrats. And says it’s because the citizenry is depressed. They are angry about the war in Iraq. They want a change. He says, “They don’t want to watch news, they don’t want to watch Iraq. They’d rather watch Bowling for Dollars and Dancing with the Stars.” Bill stops and changes direction and asks, “Are you going to be in Dancing with the Stars?”
Dave scoffs at the suggestion and says to Bill, “You bonehead!”
Dave outlines his feelings about our being in Iraq: “After September 11th, we felt we needed to do something. Something terrible was done to us and we felt we needed to do something. Iraq? The Administration said so, so, yeah, Iraq. And then when one American died, and then a dozen, and then a hundred and then a thousand . . . . we’re left to wonder if we are causing more harm and damage and carnage than it is worth. So should we be there?”
Bill says “Do you want the United States to win in Iraq? It’s an easy question…”
Dave interrupts, “No, it’s not easy for me because I’m thoughtful.” Dave continues: “What I would like is for Americans to stop dying and to have stability in that part of the world. Is that possible? And since stability is questionable, let’s stop Americans from dying.”
Bill later admits that we were wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Dave doesn’t understand and wonders why, if we were wrong, do we think staying and having Americans killed is right.
Bill explains there are complicated geopolitical implications involved and says if we left Iraq now, Iran would come in and take over the oil supply and distribution.
Dave mutters, “So it’s all about the oil. We are there because it’s the oil.
Bill answers, “Yes, it’s always about the oil.”
Bill asks if Dave thinks Bush is evil?
Dave says no, but he thinks Bush is “misguided and we felt we had to do something. We followed him.”
Bill isn’t listening and insinuates that Dave thinks Bush is an evil liar.
Dave jumps in and says, “I never said he was an evil liar. You are putting words in my mouth . . . just the way you put artificial facts in your head.”
Dave holds up O’Reilly’s book, Culture Warrior, [on the cover, Bill is wearing an expensive rain slicker]. “I looked at the cover and said . . . ‘What is it, a book on sailing?’”
Dave concludes: “I don’t know what I’m talking about . . . and neither do you.”