What was the most important story in the news yesterday? According to Bill O'Reilly, it's the fact that an atheist group was permitted to erect a holiday display alongside a Nativity scene at the state Capitol in Washington state.
His entire opening segment on The O'Reilly Factor yesterday was devoted to the subject, replete with a chryon featuring Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's phone number, and featuring one of Papa Bear's patented "Talking Points Memo" rants, claiming Gregoire had "embarrassed Washington state and the nation."
He had on local blogger David Goldstein, who opened by noting pointedly that Gregoire was busy meeting with President-elect Obama to work on an economic-recovery plan "instead of worrying herself over this annual tempest in a teapot, which is what this is."
What's odd about O'Reilly's rant is that the state did not move to prohibit any kind of displays. The problem for O'Reilly is that it was too inclusive: the state essentially makes the space available for any group that wants to use it for a holiday display. (See the explanation here.)
In other words, O'Reilly is less interested in defending Christmas here in this crazy-ass liberal state (as O'Reilly depicts us) than he is in denying atheists their free-speech rights.
Goldstein smacked O'Reilly's whole premise by pointing this out:
Any religious organization that wants to put up a religious display gets to put one up. This is the problem of having religious displays on public property. It's a free-speech issue in the end. Once you allow one group to do it, then all groups get to do it. And in fact, I'm surprised that there's only three this year.
I think O'Reilly is starting to lose it, now that the recent elections have delivered a clear repudiation to just about everything he stands for, particularly that monumental waste of time and energy known as the Culture War. Unfortunately for him, he's built his whole career out of stoking the flames of that dimming fire.
So of course he has to do his damnedest to keep that faint little spark glowing. That seems to take a lot of huffing and puffing.