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Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2001 / 4 Adar, 5761

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reiley
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Consumer Reports

The Letterman experience -- THE late-night program hosted by David Letterman is the toughest interview show on television.

That's because Mr. Letterman is a smart guy who can spot a phony with telescopic accuracy and expects his guests to bring something to the table. If a guest begins to sink on this show, the bottom is a long way down.

A big part of doing well on the Letterman show is the audience. A guest not only has to win over the host, but also the people who are sitting a few yards away. It is not a tough crowd, most are just happy to see Dave in person, but they are listening. And you better have something to say.

Because of the success of my book, I was booked on the Letterman program. As I walked on stage to begin my segment, I knew what I was going to talk about. But I had no idea how an audience looking for entertainment would receive my thesis of rampant government corruption.

If you watch my television program "The O'Reilly Factor," you know that it is often an intense discussion of political and hot-button social issues. But there is no studio audience. The cheering or booing comes in the form of overnight television ratings.

Thank G-d, and I mean that literally, the audience seemed to be as fed up as I am with incident after incident of dubious behavior by our leaders in Washington. I was able to joke with Mr. Letterman about a very serious subject -- that the powerful in D.C. protect each other, and that government corruption is out of control. The audience seemed to be with me.

This is a change, I think. All during the Lewinsky scandal we had a deeply divided country. Half of us were outraged that a sitting president would diminish his office by having sex with an intern in the office and then boldly lie about it. The other half of Americans resented the intrusion into somebody's sex life, no matter where the actual action took place, and were willing to excuse the president for lying about sex.

But now with these sleazy pardons and the general "forget you" attitude of the Clintons, a drastic mood shift seems to have occurred. The audience at the "Letterman Show" had to be all over the place as far as ideology is concerned. They were just everyday folks who got tickets that night. But I received some big applause when I zeroed in on the Clintons, calling them "The Dukes of Hazard," among other pleasantries.

I also got applause when I criticized President Bush for failing to show concern over the pardoning of a major cocaine dealer and a fugitive. The crowd seemed to be just as annoyed with the "let's move on" philosophy as they are with the tawdry conduct of the Clintons.

I believe that finally, fair-minded Americans who care about their country are coming to the realization that there is something very wrong in Washington, D.C. Some of the people to whom we are entrusting power are abusing that power, and our investigative agencies like the FBI are often MIA.

There is no way on this earth that the Marc Rich pardon should not be the subject of intense FBI scrutiny. When Denise Rich took the Fifth Amendment, and Mr. Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, refused a congressional request to hand over a list of donors to the Clinton Library Fund, all of our leaders in Washington should have hit the ceiling. If a fugitive living in Switzerland funneled money through his ex-wife into an account Bill Clinton has unlimited access to -- well, Houston, we have a problem.

But President Bush wants to "move on" and let the press ferret it all out. The press? The American media is now responsible for keeping politicians honest? Come on, Mr. President, many press people make the Clintons look like Mother Teresa.

Earth to Bush, it is the Justice Department's mandate to investigate public corruption. That's why we have a Justice Department -- to seek justice. OK? U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White is investigating the Marc Rich case, but who's investigating the cocaine dealer pardon in Los Angeles? Nobody, that's who. And why is the FBI on the sidelines?

President Bush and the rest of the nation should be demanding full disclosure about these pardons, and all the other dubious stuff like overseas campaign money, Chinese espionage, FBI spying and on and on. As I told David Letterman, we need to start holding our leaders accountable for what they do. The audience applauded. I've never heard a sweeter sound.

JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and The Completely Ridiculous in American Life. Comments by clicking here.


02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
01/24/01: I have been investigating Jackson's finances for the past two years
01/17/01: Sifting Ashcroft's record

© 2001 Creators Syndicate