I guess Bill O'Reilly decided he'd had enough of being just a demagogue last night and made the leap into his new persona as an unmistakably dangerous demagogue.
His Talking Points Memo segment is almost always amusing for its incoherence, but this time it was just inchoate: an attack on the Barack Obama's selection of Leon Panetta as CIA chief, ostensibly because of Panetta's lack of experience. The argument, as well as we could make it out, was that Obama is making the U.S. vulnerable to terror because he has chosen a CIA chief who wants us not to torture terror suspects.
Most of the early part of the rant is a regurgitation of O'Reilly's recent warnings that the "far left" wants to hijack Obama's presidency and that his approach to torture is reflective of that. Then he pulls a clip from his radio show earlier in the day, in which he interviewed Michael Scheuer, who's lately been absorbed by the Ron Paulians. Scheuer says this:
Michael Scheuer: I think that the only way to change policy is, sadly, another attack on the United States, and I think that's coming.
O'Reilly: Are you going to predict that?
Scheuer: Oh, I think so, sir. I think that within the next year we'll be attacked again. The opportunity is just too good a one. Um, taking down a lot of the rendition program and that kind of stuff makes things easier for the enemy --
And then O'Reilly launches into a classic naming-the-enemy rant -- the enemy, evidently, being embodied in l'il ole Baghdad By The Bay:
O'Reilly: But some Americans don't care. In fact, some Americans are even are supporting the enemy. In San Francisco, Ground Zero for anti-American displays, supporters of Hamas openly demonstrate against Israel and the USA. These people believe America is evil. And so do many in the media.
Bottom line on this, Barack Obama is taking a major risk by handcuffing U.S. intelligence in its vital task of disrupting and defeating terror. If we get hit, the U.S. will have huge problems.
So let's see: If Obama lets Panetta muck up the CIA's ability, we're going to get hit in the next year. But wait -- aren't we going to be hit no matter what? And isn't all that reflective of the 2006 NIE which warned that the Iraq war and Bush administration's handling of it (including the Abu Ghraib revelations) had made us actually more vulnerable to terrorist attack? Ah, but O'Reilly has long ago swept that particular fact under his mental rug.
That's just for starters. Next up on the program, he had on author/CIA expert Gary Berntsen, and "Fox Military Analyst" Col. David Hunt. Berntsen was largely baffled by the Panetta selection. Hunt, on the other hand, was largely bats--t crazy:
[Transcript and more below.]
O'Reilly: But Colonel -- and you and I have disagreed on this one before -- if you're going to say that you have to do the Army Field Manual, which you know very well, which says, quote, you are not to make any captured person uncomfortable in any way, if that's going to be the standard that Leon Panetta embraces, and he told the Monterey newspaper that's exactly his vision, then I don't think we're going to get intel from any captured terror suspects at all, am I wrong?*
Hunt: No, and the Army Intel Manual is meant for Private Johnson, in the field, and it's not been adopted by the intelligence community.
O'Reilly: But -- but -- it was clear by the interview that Panetta did with the Monterey newspaper that this was the standard that he believes the CIA has to adhere to!
Hunt: He's wrong, and so is the incoming president, on this issue. Guys who know this business understand that it has to be in their toolkit, the ability to do this very tough thing called torture.
And by the way, it's a small part of the effort on terrorism. It's a small part.
... [O'Reilly goes off on another 24 scenario. Hey, Bill, Jack Bauer is much more convincing than you. And that ain't saying much.]
Hunt: The problem is actually bigger. The National Intelligence Director, this guy Blair that's being put in there, Navy guy, what they've done is, they've increased that office from 500 to 1500, and further diluted the agency's capability.
What they have done in putting Panetta in there is put a stake in the heart of the agency, and try to kill it. This is not a good situation at all.
Gary Berntsen then tries to sound somewhat reasonable amid all this madness, but it's like a drowning man in a flood.
Well, I wonder what Col. Hunt would say about those Japanese soldiers convicted of the war crimes of waterboarding American prisoners. Hmmm. Doesn't exactly jibe with the notion that torture is just a routine thing American intelligence operatives need to have in their toolkits.
*As for BillO, may we meekly suggest he avail himself of the advice of the pseudonymous Matthew Alexander, who found that exactly what BillO describes as "Leon Panetta's vision" was indeed the most effective means of obtaining intelligence.
Incidentally, the Panetta interview that O'Reilly references can be read here. Judge for yourself Panetta's vision for the intelligence community.