Talk Like Andy Rooney Day

by Ted on September 26, 2003

I’m not going to Talk Like O’Reilly today. To attone for my sins, I am going to talk about his book, “The O’Reilly Factor- The Good, The Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life.”

My lovely, intelligent, largely apolitical fiancee was in a book group that chose “The O’Reilly Factor,” so she had to read it. It’s really something special. We would be lying in bed reading, and she’d crack up and have to read something to me. This was probably our favorite quote, from page 111:

Since the 1960s a couple walking down the aisle or taking their turn at city hall are going to have huge expectations.

You know what they are: a big house, late-model cars, and expensive “with-it” clothes, great sex between hard bodies, varied and healthful foods, separate space but mutual interests, stimulating conversation that helps each partner “grow”, fun parties and swell vacations, exceptional children who can be bragged about on social occasions and at the office, constant hugging and supportive endearments, old-fashioned considerate behavior and also trendy progressive thinking- and don’t forget the intelligent, cheerful, gifted pets.

If that’s your agenda, there’s a quick route to reality. Run that list by your parents.

I blame Bill O’Reilly for our long engagement. I’m not eager to start eating gruel at every meal while watching my dog’s intelligence drop.

The bulk of the book is a mixture of personal reminiscences of his hardscrabble life growing up in Levittown, his career in television, and criticism of political figures that he doesn’t like. He’s not especially vitriolic, except about specific individuals like the Clintons and Jesse Jackson. What’s most striking is the Andy Rooneyness of the whole enterprise. At 214 pages, it still feels remarkably padded. I have no idea what he resorted to in order to fill out his new book.

Here are the subheads in chapter 17, “The Ridiculous Factor”:

President William Jefferson Clinton
Attorney General Janet Reno
Larry Flynt
Charles Manson
South Park, the Movie
NBA Ticket Prices
Sex Tonics
Jerry Springer
Rosie’s Rants

“Are you making sense, or are you spouting propoganda? I mean, a guy named Jospeph Goebbels did the same thing on the very far right during World War II.”

Kate Moss, Calista Flockheart, and the Rest of the Skull-and-Bones Crew
Pamela Anderson

Too much substance, if you know what I mean.”

Al Sharpton and David Duke
Social Promotions
San Francisco
Skin Piercing
TV Weatherpeople
Gays in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs
The Tax Code

“Politicians will argue- as many have on the program- that the government needs your money to operate properly. This is a lie. There is more than enough tax revenue available today to pay for the armed forces, roads, police and other vital services without looting the take-home pay of working Americans.”

(N.B. In 2002, federal income from all sources except individual income taxes and individual payroll taxes was $289 billion dollars. Federal defense spending alone n 2002 was $329 billion dollars.) As Dwight Merideth has noted, Bill O’Reilly’s economics require belief in Rumplestiltskin.)

Here are the subheads in Chapter 18, “The Bad Factor”:

Any US Airline
Rice Cakes
Suburban Utility Vehicles
NFL Gear
Steak Tartare
Leonardo DeCaprio
Onion-Flavored Potato Chips
Warren Beatty
Barbra Streisand (as an actress)
Donald Trump
Phone Solicitors
Wayne Newton
Jesse Helms
Ted Kennedy
Michael Jackson/Jesse Jackson
Chinese Food in America
Martha Stewart
Monica Lewinsky
Charles Grodin (as a talk show host)
Daytime TV
Johnnie Cochran
Sex Talk Radio
Howard Stern

In the end, we didn’t walk away from the book feeling much particular dislike for O’Reilly. On the other hand, the book doesn’t present much of an argument for why anyone would take him seriously.



Ophelia Benson 09.26.03 at 5:00 pm

Well, no, but then why do people take George W Bush seriously either? Vacuity is no barrier to being taken seriously in the great Murkan celebrity-mill.


Steve Laniel 09.26.03 at 5:17 pm

I don’t think the point was O’Reilly’s vacuity. I think the point was that his rants are on completely trivial topics. You can rant vacuously about serious topics, or you can rant vacuously about fluff. All else being equal, I think I’d prefer the former. At least in the former case, there are smart people around who can say, “Well no, it’s not quite like that,” and the discussion can continue at a higher level. Rants about Roseanne are, on the other hand, more or less a dead-weight loss: the rant goes out, and who would even care about responding?


Ophelia Benson 09.26.03 at 5:40 pm

Mmyes, I suppose so. But then thinking rants about trivial topics are worth writing a book about shows a certain general vacuity, I think. Or maybe I’m just trying to save my point.


PG 09.26.03 at 6:41 pm

Molly Ivins hasn’t won a Pulitzer, Maureen Dowd has. Fluff goes far in this country.


Ted Barlow 09.26.03 at 7:02 pm

Oh, man, don’t get me started about Maureen Dowd.


Ophelia Benson 09.26.03 at 7:25 pm

And don’t get me started on how far fluff goes in this country! Not unless you want to be trapped here for a few days.


William O. Pate II 09.27.03 at 6:10 am

I just returned from Molly Ivins’ Final Friday party in Austin. I felt that I should also insert a comment in support of an award of some sort for her, if only so she can have another plaque to use at a hot-plate. I don’t know if a Pulitzer would be the correct one, but, if Maureen Dowd won one, why not?


G. DeeDee 09.29.03 at 10:38 pm

I like rice cakes.

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