O’Reilly’s amazing next-day performance!


Why this should be front-page news: On Tuesday evening, Bill O’Reilly melted down on his semi-eponymous program.

He screamed and yelled at Alan Colmes, repeatedly saying that Colmes was lying about Obama’s budget proposals.

Before the segment was done, Mr. O began apologizing to Colmes. That said, the segment was monumentally crazy. But O'Reilly's follow-up segment on Wednesday night was a hundred times more significant. It ought to be front-page news, though of course it won’t be.

Here’s what happened:

Bill invited Kirsten Powers to help him review the session with Colmes. Mr. O began with a joke, then Powers defined the topic:
O’REILLY (3/6/13): Now for the Top Story tonight: Reaction from a Democrat joining us from Washington, Kirsten Powers, a Fox News analyst.

So Kirsten, I understand you visited Alan Colmes in the hospital today. Is he all right?

POWERS: I sent him flowers.

O'REILLY: Just a joke. OK, where am I going wrong, Powers? I'm sure I'm going wrong somewhere.

POWERS: I am— I am just shocked that you're doubling down on these claims that Obama has not proposed any spending cuts. You can go to the Web site WhiteHouse.gov. It has his fiscal cliff offers that has—

O'REILLY: OK wait—


O'REILLY: I assume you have gone there since you're touting it.

POWERS: I have a copy of it right here. Right here.

O'REILLY: OK, tell me what, the specific spending cuts the president has proposed.
Already, the question at issue was more clear than it had been the previous night. Mr. O wanted to know what new spending cuts Obama has proposed.

What sorts of spending would Obama cut moving forward from here? On the One True Liberal Channel, some folk have rebutted O’Reilly by citing spending cuts from past years.

But O'Reilly was asking about future cuts. In response, Powers plowed ahead, citing the White House web site:
POWERS (continuing directly): OK, as people will know—and also, you can look at, his fiscal year 2013 budget has the exact same thing. He's—

You told Alan last night that he hasn't made any specific suggestions on Medicare. Completely untrue. $400 billion in cuts to federal healthcare spending laid out very clearly.

O'REILLY: OK, let me stop you there—


O'REILLY: Let me stop you there. $400 billion you are saying in Medicare, right, the President wants. Is that what you are saying?

POWERS: Yes, that's in his budget and now on his Web site.
Powers cited a proposal for $400 billion in cuts to federal healthcare spending. At this point, Mr. O wanted more specifics:
O'REILLY (continuing directly): OK wait, wait, Powers! You know I'm a simple man and you can't go too fast with me. I have to absorb.

POWERS: I will not disagree with that.

O'REILLY: So $400 million in Medicare President Obama wants.

POWERS: Billion.

O'REILLY: How would that manifest itself? What's going to be cut?
This is where the high comedy starts. Watch what happens when Powers discusses the possibility of negotiating drug prices for Medicare, thus driving down Medicare spending:
POWERS (continuing directly): Well, there's different things. They want to apply the Medicaid— With Medicaid, you can negotiate drug prices. They want to apply that to Medicare and get savings in drug prices. They want to raise—

O'REILLY: OK wait, wait, wait! a simple man, a simple man. All right? They want to negotiate drug prices with whom?

POWERS: With the drug companies.

O'REILLY: With the drug companies. They want to? Wait, wait, wait. Have they begun doing that? And, if so, which drug companies are they talking with?
Powers said that Obama wants to negotiate prices with the drug companies. Attempting to show that this is a fraud, Mr. O asked if they have begun doing that yet. Attempting to show that the plan lacks specifics, he asked which drug companies Powers was talking about.

Duh. As everyone knows, the administration can’t negotiate Medicare drug prices with drug companies under current law. Flummoxed perhaps by the oddness of Mr. O's reaction, Powers offered a weak rebuttal, then got back on track by citing Obama's proposal to adopt chained CPI.

We’ll show you where this nonsense eventually went:
POWERS: Bill hold on! See, this is what you do. You change the discussion. What you said last night was the president—

O'REILLY: No, I'm not. I want specifics.

POWERS: I'm giving you specifics. What you said last night was the president did not propose anything. The president proposed this to the Republicans. The Republicans circulated this plan. They know about the plan. There was also chained CPI in there I know you are not too simple to know about chained CPI. So the point is, the president has proposed these—

O'REILLY: No he hasn't. He has proposed generalities.

POWERS: They have not—yes they— Bill, you are 100 percent wrong. No, you are 100 percent wrong.

O'REILLY: OK, you are 100 percent wrong and we will let the folks decide. Now let me make my case.

POWERS: Go to the post at government Web site, WhiteHouse.gov, and see very specific right here.


POWERS: Broken down, the specific cuts.

O'REILLY: Powers, you don't have one drug company mentioned. You don't have any numbers.

POWERS: Oh, come on!
Powers hadn’t named a specific drug company! This produced the evening’s finest statement, by a sarcastic Powers:

“Oh, come on!”

That said, the nonsense went on and on. Later, Powers said this:
POWERS: You need to admit you're wrong.


POWERS: And you are wrong about this and now you are playing a game because we can't name a drug company? I mean, come on.

O'REILLY: Listen, Powers, you say you're going to negotiate with drug companies to bring down spending on drugs and you don't have one company mentioned that you are in negotiations with.

POWERS: It's the same company that doing it with Medicaid. That's the exact same companies they are dealing with Medicaid.


POWERS: You are totally moving the goal post. You are totally moving the goal post. What you screamed at Alan about last night yes, you're screaming at Alan last night saying that the president had not made any proposals.

O'REILLY: No. Any specific proposal, and I used that word 13 times.

POWERS: Really?

O'REILLY: Specific.

POWERS: So you don't think, because the government negotiates with Medicaid, with drug companies, you don't think the government kind of knows who the drug companies are?
The clowning was endless and was very amusing. Here’s why this should be front-page news in the nation’s newspapers:

Roughly five million people watched O’Reilly’s three broadcasts this night. They watched a very famous newscaster engage in utterly ludicrous conduct, trying to maintain a claim which is simply wrong.

Is it true, by the way? Has Obama proposed negotiating drug prices for Medicare? We aren’t sure, but O’Reilly’s rebuttals on this point were patently absurd. Meanwhile, the proposal to adopt chained CPI does in fact sit right there on the White House web site. So do various other proposals which Powers didn’t cite.

We live at a time of crazy claims and relentless tribal disinformation. The functioning of our society is bending and breaking under the weight of this lunacy, which is very profitable for the companies and people who produce it.

O’Reilly has the largest ratings in cable news—the largest cable news ratings by far. In a rational world, it would be news when a major “news” broadcaster behaves in this ludicrous way.

But the New York Times would jump off a bridge before it would report this ludicrous misconduct. Meanwhile, Lawrence clowned on The One True Channel in response to this performance.

He didn’t demand that the New York Times report O’Reilly’s ridiculous conduct—and he never will. (People, it just isn't done!) Instead, Lawrence played tape of an old meltdown by Mr. O, a meltdown from many long years ago, before Fox News even started.

On our own ridiculous channel, this event was played for entertainment, for fun. Our own clown stuffed big bucks in his pants as he pretended to serve.


  1. It's been an interesting exchange. O'Reilly's claim has been that Obama hasn't been specific in his proposals. This assumes several things. First, that Obama's policy would be qualitatively better had it been more specific. Bill seemed to argue this with respect to Ryan's proposal that the age of qualification for Medicare should be raised. Whether this is good or bad policy has no bearing at all on how specific some politician is about it. Secondly, the issue is whether the lack of specificity is relevant to Republican opposition. Surely politicians know who is going to get hit by Obama's policies in the health care area. It's those constituencies who are actively opposing them, and politicians know who they are.

    The real problem Republican have with Obama's proposed cuts isn't how he is making them, it's that he is making them at all. That's a point O'Reilly is missing, and the Republicans he has on his show who are aware of some of the damage O'Reilly is doing are trying to work out.

  2. A FOX cable bobblehead makes a patently false claim and that should be "major" news?

  3. The real problems Republicans have with Obama's budget cuts are that Obama hasn't touched the "third rail" of cuts to Social Security and Medicare BENEFITS, AND that Obama links budget cuts to tax increases.

    1. Chained CPI is not a cut to Social Security BENEFITS?

  4. We have to look at the big picture, not just one snapshot.

    Since the most intractable and fastest rising expenses for the elderly are medical, even a small reduction in those will make a big difference in disposable income.

    Simply, if healthcare expenses are brought down to realistic levels, retirees will never notice Chained CPI.

    That's why the doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, drug companies, and billionaires have to share in the pain, which is Obama's plan.

    I will gladly exchange a $24.00 monthly increase in SS benefits for a $17.00 one, if my medical expenses go down by $200.00 a month.

    My personal projections for 2013 are about $160.00 a month more discretionary income than last year, all due to lower medical costs.

    If Obama wins this round, things will be even better.

    1. May I add that the GOP goal here is NOT to merely cut benefits, but eventually to end both Social Security and Medicare altogether while dressing that up in the sheep's clothing of "privitaziation"?

    2. Anon,
      You may.

      I can't "prove" it, but the evidence has been obvious for decades.

      Note that Paul Ryan has unearthed the same pile of dung that he was shoveling during the campaign.

    3. Anon,

      It may also be said that the logical consequence of The Affordable Care ACT is the public option.

      I'm sure Bill O'Reilly would instantly agree with that premise without a single specific fact to back him up.

  5. Bob Somerby:

    You write:

    "Is it true, by the way? Has Obama proposed negotiating drug prices for Medicare? We aren’t sure..."

    That's a pretty darn important question, isn't it?

    Here's what the the proposal at WhiteHouse.gov cited by Kirsten Powers actually says about "Health Savings":


    Health Savings --could be achieved by $400 B
    -Reduce payments to drug companies $140 B

    -Reduce hospital payments such as reimbursement for patients who don't pay $30 B

    -Encourage efficient care after a hospital stay $50 B

    -Encourage beneficiaries to seek high value health care and ask the most fortunate to pay more $35 B

    -Medicaid, Pay-for-Delay, IPAB, program integrity $25

    -Other health savings $120 B

    That's it.

    That's the entire proposal at WhiteHouse.gov with respect to "Health Savings."

    How on earth was Kirsten Powers able to point her finger at a print-out of this proposal on television, and claim that this was a specific proposal for Medicare to negotiate prices with PhRMA en masse, a la my fellow liberal's favored (and Administration-opposed) Dorgan Amendment to the PPACA?

    The real and amazing story of this exchange was that a Dem-leaning pundit appeared on cable television and appeared to claim that the President is proposing that the ban on Medicare drug negotiations enacted by 2005's Medicare Part D law be lifted and replaced with legislation mandating such negotiated price reductions --to the tune of $120 billion!

    Can this possibly be true? If so, how does Kirsten Powers possibly know such a thing? What evidence is there that this is the policy actually being proposed by the White House?

    This is the movement left's holy grail of health reform in the United States, Bob Somerby. It's not the ridiculous "universal coverage" that the "market-oriented" Third Way Democratic ideologues bray about, it's the real deal. It's how German citizens pay half the price that we Americans do for the same drugs. It's a big part of how France keeps the price of its best-in-the-world health care system at less than %12 of GDP. Our crazy, Park Avenue drug prices are a big part of the reason why US health care costs Americans $7,960 per person per year, as opposed to the Japanese price of $2,878!

    Americans have waited for years for this opportunity to finally use Medicare's 40% market share negotiating power to bring down the $950 per capita US price of prescription drugs! If Medicare transparently set the price schedule every year for all the medications it covers, just like is done in every other First World nation, it would drastically change (for the better) the pricing and transparency landscape of the entire private market, too!

    So...how on earth does Kirsten Powers, professional Democrat, know that "Reduce payments to drug companies $140 B" means "pass legislation finally empowering Medicare to set drug prices?"

    1. (continued)

      Isn't that the bombshell that came out of this exchange, Bob Somerby? Why aren't we hearing more about it? Where is the actual, written proposal from the White House that advocates for the beneficial public policy we movement liberals have been salivating over for decades?

      Or could it be that professional Democrats are taking advantage of the non-specificity of the White House's "proposal" to claim that which sounds so tantalizingly good to us on the movement left, but has no basis in the reality of these back-door, "Grand Bargain" deals?

      Could it be that the Administration even knows that the laughably ambiguous "savings" they've proposed --I mean, $120 billion in "Other health savings?" Really?-- would be easily interpreted by the desperate on the left to mean what we would love it to mean, but could be just as easily deniable when the New Democrats in the Senate get through writing their "market-oriented reforms" into actual legislation?

      Could it be that the vile, stupid O'Reilly has just the teeniest bit of a misguided and ignorant point when he denounces what Kirsten Powers is put out on TV to sell?

      Shouldn't we movement liberals maybe focus our scrutiny on the disinformation being sold in its various forms to both the popular left and the popular right?

      What do you think, Bob Somerby?

    2. Stuart, "negotiating with drug companies" was how O'Reilly termed it. Go look at what Powers actually said, then go look at the administration's proposals in the FY12 HHS budget.

    3. A canny angler lets the fish see the bait, but not the hook.

    4. Hmm...what is it that I'm supposed to gather from this reply?

      I mean, you seem to be implying that there's something missing from the above analysis...but you don't exactly say what it is, or even what's inaccurate. It's just "go look" and then "go look." I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to be looking to correct.

      So, let's look. Well, you're right, Anonymous, after looking "at what Powers actually said" a second, third and fourth time, she didn't literally say "negotiating with drug companies," she said

      "with Medicaid, you can negotiate drug prices. They want to apply that to Medicare and get savings in drug prices."

      and then answered the question

      "They want to negotiate drug prices with whom?"

      with "With the drug companies."

      Yep, it's right where I saw it the first through fourth times I checked, at 1:20 into the segment:


      Surely you can't claim that "what Powers actually said" is substantially different from "negotiating with drug companies," right?

      I mean, that would be foolish...or dishonest.

      So, looking at the administration's FY 2012 HHS budget --for some weird reason, given that this has nothing to do whatsoever with the FY 2012 HHS budget-- I can't see anything related or even slightly redolent of any future policy regarding drug price negotiations.

      Nope, nowhere here at the FY 2012 budget site:


      and nowhere in CMS's 2012 budget justifications for appropriations:


      In summary, you've helpfully told me to "go look" and "go look," but it appears that there's nothing whatsoever that would contradict a single word of what was written.

      Perhaps you might want to lay out your disputes --and your evidence-- a bit more clearly, lest folks reading somehow get the false impression that all one would have to do to see how misleading my comment was would be to "Go look at what Powers actually said, then go look at the administration's proposals in the FY12 HHS budget.," knowing, as we both do, Anonymous, that most folks won't necessarily take the time and trouble to look these things up for themselves.

      That would be the more honest approach, don't you think?

    5. The trollery is strong with this one.

  6. O'Reilly doesn't give a flip about the Truth, or the odd factoid here and there. His objective is to win whatever argument he's in by whatever means at hand. And he has a sizable bag of tricks with which to do it. Even better, he doesn't even have to win convincingly, as long as he pleases his fans and keeps the show going and the money rolling in.

    As to specifics, he just had to keep demanding more granular detail until his interlocuter ran out of answers and -- tah dah! -- he wins. That's just one trick. His next book should be "How to Win Any Argument by Exhausting your Opponent With Cheap Debating Tricks." I've seen other conservatives do this. I'm related to a few. Fascists, Totalitarians, and other varieties of despot have shown impressive facility for this as well.

    But Liberals as a rule don't seem to have the stomach for such tactics, as if they really believed Milton's Areopagatica when it said the Truth can win any fair fight. How quaint. How droll.

    Just try to find a fair fight these days. Truth and fact usually gets beaten to a pulp by big lies bulked up with a shot of forensics

    In Socrates day such people were called Sophists. They were the bad guys in Plato's screenplays. Today they're talk show hosts.

  7. I don't defend O'Reilly. I'm not a fan of his. O'Reilly was wrong.

    However, I would point out that there's a difference between listing some proposal on a Presidential web site vs. actively selling it. E.g., Barack Obama didn't just mention health reform on his web site. He and his surrogates talked up the proposal all over the place.

    Or, consider the sacrifices Winston Churchill demanded of the English people. He actively sold the the need for "blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

  8. The last time I saw negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry go up for a vote in the Senate it was split down party lines with the Republicans all block voting against it, joined by 2 Democrats, from Delaware and New Jersey (big pharma states). Those were the only Democrats voting against it. Take a look, in the meantime, at what has happened to the wholesale price of certain medications - take Nexium, for example, which has doubled- since the institution of Medicare part D. No coincidence there. The Republicans are actively involved in looting the taxpayer here.

    1. " Democrats, from Delaware and New Jersey (big pharma states). Those were the only Democrats voting against it"

      Speaking of the wholesale price of medications, and looting the taxpayer:

      From the Huffington Post


      Doughnuts For Dorgan: Drug Reimportation Killed In Deal That Might Get Cheaper Drugs For Seniors

      First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12

      "President Obama and the Senate leadership can't whip up the votes necessary to pass a public option or even a Medicare buy-in compromise, but they didn't have any trouble persuading 30 Democrats to vote against prescription drug reimportation Tuesday night -- thus preserving the deal cut between the Senate Finance Committee, the White House and Big Pharma.

      The amendment's sponsor, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), was asked after the vote if Democratic leadership opposed his amendment in order to preserve the deal.

      "Well, and they apparently did," said Dorgan. "The last seven days, we've seen a lot of votes stripped away. What did we get, 51 votes tonight for my amendment? I believe seven days ago we had sufficient votes to pass it, but I think what is happening in the intervening period is other things developed. It's a great disappointment because it seems to me very hard to do health care reform without doing something about the escalating prices for prescription drugs."

      The amendment had been scheduled to come up for a vote last week, but was held up amid much speculation that Dorgan had the votes. The vote Tuesday was 51-48, or nine shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. A total of 30 Democrats and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted against it.

      That's 30 centrist Democrats and Joe Lieberman, voting to keep the price of prescription drugs artificially high in the United States, thus looting the taxpayer, both the people who pay Medicare Part D premiums, and the people who pay premiums to private, state-based insurance oligopolies --looting all of us.

      So it's rightist, market fundamentalist Republicans, and centrist, "market-oriented" Democrats (including our President) striking the Third Way bargain with PhRMA to keep the price of US health care at twice that of the rest of the healthy, wealthy First World.

      Here's the full roll call:

      YEAS -- 51

      Alexander (R-TN)
      Begich (D-AK)
      Bennet (D-CO)
      Bingaman (D-NM)
      Bond (R-MO)
      Boxer (D-CA)
      Brown (D-OH)
      Coburn (R-OK)
      Collins (R-ME)
      Conrad (D-ND)
      Corker (R-TN)
      Cornyn (R-TX)
      Crapo (R-ID)
      DeMint (R-SC)
      Dorgan (D-ND)
      Feingold (D-WI)
      Feinstein (D-CA)
      Franken (D-MN)
      Graham (R-SC)
      Grassley (R-IA)
      Harkin (D-IA)
      Hutchison (R-TX)
      Johanns (R-NE)
      Johnson (D-SD)
      Klobuchar (D-MN)
      Kohl (D-WI)
      LeMieux (R-FL)
      Leahy (D-VT)
      Lincoln (D-AR)
      McCain (R-AZ)
      McCaskill (D-MO)
      McConnell (R-KY)
      Merkley (D-OR)
      Murkowski (R-AK)
      Nelson (D-FL)
      Nelson (D-NE)
      Pryor (D-AR)
      Risch (R-ID)
      Sanders (I-VT)
      Sessions (R-AL)
      Shaheen (D-NH)
      Shelby (R-AL)
      Snowe (R-ME)
      Specter (D-PA)
      Stabenow (D-MI)
      Thune (R-SD)
      Udall (D-NM)
      Vitter (R-LA)
      Webb (D-VA)
      Wicker (R-MS)
      Wyden (D-OR)

      NAYS -- 48

      Akaka (D-HI)
      Barrasso (R-WY)
      Baucus (D-MT)
      Bayh (D-IN)
      Bennett (R-UT)
      Brownback (R-KS)
      Bunning (R-KY)
      Burr (R-NC)
      Burris (D-IL)
      Cantwell (D-WA)
      Cardin (D-MD)
      Carper (D-DE)
      Casey (D-PA)
      Chambliss (R-GA)
      Cochran (R-MS)
      Dodd (D-CT)
      Durbin (D-IL)
      Ensign (R-NV)
      Enzi (R-WY)
      Gillibrand (D-NY)
      Gregg (R-NH)
      Hagan (D-NC)
      Hatch (R-UT)
      Inhofe (R-OK)
      Inouye (D-HI)
      Isakson (R-GA)
      Kaufman (D-DE)
      Kerry (D-MA)
      Kirk (D-MA)
      Kyl (R-AZ)
      Landrieu (D-LA)
      Lautenberg (D-NJ)
      Levin (D-MI)
      Lieberman (ID-CT)
      Lugar (R-IN)
      Menendez (D-NJ)
      Mikulski (D-MD)
      Murray (D-WA)
      Reed (D-RI)
      Reid (D-NV)
      Roberts (R-KS)
      Rockefeller (D-WV)
      Schumer (D-NY)
      Tester (D-MT)
      Udall (D-CO)
      Voinovich (R-OH)
      Warner (D-VA)
      Whitehouse (D-RI)

      NOT VOTING -- 1
      Byrd (D-WV)

  9. Reimportation and allowing Medicare the same leverage power as Medicaid, the VA System and large insurers are 2 different things, of course. Before that vote, Sebelius vocalized concerns about the safety of such a practice (buying from offshore agents) given that there is a significant counterfeiting market.

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