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Obama fails to allay major concerns in O'Reilly interview

By Brian McCarty
On February 4, 2014

Before the Super Bowl, Fox News aired an interview of President Obama conducted by Bill O'Reilly. Throughout the interview, O'Reilly asked President Obama about several issues that have sparked criticism of his administration, such as the Obamacare rollout and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. In many of his answers, the president was evasive and did not take responsibility for the blunders of his administration. However, he does deserve credit for agreeing to be interviewed by a network that has been highly critical of his presidency.
O'Reilly began by asking the president when he became aware of the severe problems with the healthcare government website. The president said that he had predicted some technical bugs, but that he did not "think anybody anticipated the degree of problems that you had on HealthCare.gov." This answer is not very satisfying. The employees in the Department of Health and Human Services tasked with implementation should have been aware of the functionality of the website before its launch. They should have conducted testing to ensure that the site was ready for the public. The fact that no one involved had any notion of the website would work suggests an incompetency in government that is disconcerting.
This led O'Reilly to ask the president why he did not fire Secretary Sebelius. The president responded, "You know, my main priority right now is making sure that it delivers for the American people." This evasive answer is troubling. Under her leadership, the department botched the rollout of the president's chief policy goal, and through its failure, the department failed to deliver on the president's promise to the American people. I do not see how it is beneficial to the American people to keep cabinet members who stumble through the tasks given to them.
O'Reilly also asked the president if he felt that promising Americans they could keep their existing insurance policies was the biggest mistake of his presidency to which Obama responded, "oh, Bill, you've got a long list of my mistakes of my presidency." The president should have begun by taking responsibility for this blunder, rather than employing an ad hominem argument. The president must have known that the mandatory standards of care in the law would result in the cancellation of substandard plans, and his repeated assurances to the contrary deliberately misinformed the American people. This question is not unreasonable merely because Bill O'Reilly is the one presenting it.
When O'Reilly questioned the president about the response to the attack in Benghazi, the president stated, "people don't know at the very moment exactly why something like this happens," and that he "revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time." These responses do not adequately explain why false explanations were given for the attack. On Face the Nation, Susan Rice described the attack as a "spontaneous protest." In response to assertions by Mohammed Magariaf, President of the General National Congress of Libya, that the attack was a planned act of terror, Rice said, "we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned." Similarly, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, "we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack; that we saw evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video.  And that is what we know thus far based on the evidence, concrete evidence - not supposition - concrete evidence that we have thus far."
The president suggests that in the swirling cloud of conflicting accounts immediately following the attack, the government simply got its facts wrong. Assuming this to be the case, it was incredibly irresponsible to tell the American people that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video before the government was sure of what transpired. With Libyan government officials giving accounts that pointed to a premeditated terrorist attack, it would have been wise for the president to wait before proclaiming it a "spontaneous reaction" and stating that no evidence existed to support the Libyan government's assertions. In this interview, the president had the opportunity to apologize for speaking too soon and giving a false account of events, but instead he sought to vindicate his past actions.
Despite his failure to take responsibility for his administration's shortcomings, the president deserves respect for sitting down to answer these questions instead of avoiding them entirely. 


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