The Nose can recall when Bill O'Reilly was a mere KATU anchor, and a damn good one, who reported on Bud Clark's latest foibles at City Hall. Now, he's got a TV show on Fox, a syndicated radio show (which airs locally on KXL) and a couple of bestselling books.
The Nose watched him rise to the top with his trademark "No Spin" format, in which perceived political posturing is cut off with put-downs that would make Don Imus wince.
So, when the Nose scored a free ticket for Monday night's KXL-hosted show at the Rose Garden, he jumped at the chance to enter the "No Spin Zone."
O'Reilly spent half his time alone on stage, sharing his thoughts on everything from the East Coast power outage to the state of downtown Portland, zinging off one-liners about Hillary, Al Franken, airline food and the sex lives of caribou, which, he says, have been improved by the Alaskan pipeline. He was then joined by local KXL host Lars Larson (who himself is heading for national syndication) for a moderated "debate" with a couple of brainy Oregon Democrats, state Sen. Charlie Ringo (who more than held his own) and former congressman Jim Weaver (who didn't).
At times, O'Reilly's maverick side was visible, even if the highly Republican crowd didn't seem to notice. While Lars' solution to last week's blackout is to reduce taxes on utilities, O'Reilly drew applause with his call for tighter government regulation of the privately held power companies. While Lars isn't troubled by the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, O'Reilly is.
To prove he's no Republican patsy, O'Reilly repeated his oft-told tale of interviewing presidential candidate George W. Bush, who had, during a recent debate, named Jesus as a role model. "I asked him, 'What do you think Jesus would think of you executing all of those people in Texas?'" recalled O'Reilly, a Roman Catholic who opposes the death penalty. "Because, since Jesus was a victim of capital punishment, I believe he'd have an opinion on it!"
But the refreshing breeze of populism was overcome by the familiar stench of elitism.
The current generation of pancake-makeup populists like O'Reilly and Larson pander to the masses by playing the God card and pretending to stick up for the little guy, but they can't seem to restrain their urge to kick the ones who don't fit into their target audience.
For example, talking about his impressions of downtown Portland, the former Channel 2 anchor was dismayed by the increased number of street people. Was he worried about Oregon's high unemployment rate? Did he wonder about cuts to state social services?
No. O'Reilly, who reportedly has an eight-figure contract, was baffled why they were allowed to be on the public sidewalks. He was trying to imagine bringing his young children to Pioneer Place and having to expose them to the homeless. "I can't believe I'd be walking down 6th Avenue and have to explain this to a little kid," he said. "It's an intrusion on my family."
Where does he think these people should go? What about the intrusion of poverty on their families?
It made the Nose wonder what O'Reilly's Jesus would think of sweeping aside our city's poor--particularly in the state that leads the nation in unemployment. Because, since Jesus was a guy who had a hard time holding down a paying gig, the Nose believes he'd have an opinion on it.