Jesse Taylor links to Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Ann Coulter. I actually read it, exposing myself to Coulter’s drivel for the first time in years. It reads like a parody of RNC spin; even with the state of punditry as depraved as it is it’s hard to imagine someone is (ostensibly) seriously saying things like “the war is going magnificently well,” “if it weren’t for the liberal media GWB would be polling 80%,” “the polls showing Bush below 50% are just the same 500 people over and over again,” “liberals said we’d never catch Saddam and Turkey would attack us,” and so on. The single greatest moment came when she was asked about Abu Graib and if she thought is was ‘just a hazing thing’ as some right wing commentators had suggested. She immediately lept to Rush Limbaugh’s defense by pointing out that he spend 2 hours and 59 hours not saying that on his show. (Yeah, and Clinton spent upwards of 23 3/4 hours a day not getting blowjobs!)
But the point of this post isn’t to marvel at Coulter’s stunning blather. When Taylor offers O’Reilly (very qualified and modest) praise for disagreeing with her and challenging her, I think he misses the point. The function of this sort of thing for O’Reilly is to shift the reasonable center toward him. He does this rather brilliantly. I recall an interview around the start of the war last year where the debate was: “Anti-war protestors: ignorant morons or actual traitors?” (Yes, he had a retired military hack arguing the latter position quite earnestly). Coulter is a useful idiot for O’Reilly, making him (and Fox News) appear as reasoned moderates. When O’Reilly challenges toxic right wing nonsense, it serves to legitimate all the times he doesn’t. He’s not an idiot, or perhaps more accurately not the same idiot he plays on TV.