For O'Reilly Factor fans like you and me there are no sweeter words than "Factor Producer Jesse Watters." We sit and suffer through the chat-ups with Dennis Miller, the Great American Pop Culture Quizzes, and the "Body Language" segments with Deanna Troi-level insights. (Did you know that people who turn red when they scream are exhibiting signs of anger? Now you do.) We do it and wait for O'Reilly to storm into Watters' office—shirt-tail untucked, chest pounding, Jim Morrison howling through a nearby stereo—and give him an assignment.
Watters, I should probably remind you, is an unassuming, milky-voiced O'Reilly flunky who is occasionally—never often enough!—tasked to chase down the host's enemies and shove microphones in their faces. Most of the time he's pestering judges who have given light sentences to pedophiles. But his latest targets were the Daily Kos blog and the fiends who support it. JetBlue had co-sponsored the liberal blog's second annual conference, Yearly Kos, offering ten free tickets to attendees. Watters and his camera crew ambushed JetBlue CEO David Barger right outside of his apartment.
WATTERS: On the Daily Kos website, it says attacks against coalition forces in Iraq are legitimate. Does JetBlue subscribe to that kind of thinking?
BARGER: There's really… politics and our business, it's not really something that we mix.
WATTERS: Well you guys are sponsoring the Daily Kos's convention this summer.
BARGER: It's really not something that we mix from a standpoint of politics. I appreciate your interest in that regard, but it's really, there's not alignment.
And then it got even more awkward. Watters kicked off weeks of coverage in which O'Reilly called the bloggers "Nazis" and "the Klan" and got JetBlue to pull its logo off the Yearly Kos web site. Not to take back the tickets. Just to remove a logo. And O'Reilly failed to get any Democratic presidential candidates (all eight are hiking to Chicago to address the conference) to pull out of the event. In other words, O'Reilly came off looking worse than the bloggers. And that was a surprise: he obviously expected to take home some organically-shampooed scalps.
Six months ago The O'Reilly Factor mau-maued adorable White House hopeful John Edwards for hiring two feminist political bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen, to help run his campaign web site. O'Reilly's team (relying on spadework by conservative blogs) repeated scurrilous things the bloggers had said about the religious right (and Christianity in general) until, eventually, both handed in their resignations.
It's infuriating for O'Reilly to see his Butlerian Jihad against Kos going nowhere. It's even worse for the iron men of the Democratic Leadership Council, that great moderating force that dragged the Democratic Party from Mondaleism to Clintonism, but couldn't even bribe Chris Dodd to address its national convention. But Dodd did make it onto The O'Reilly Factor yesterday—to defend the Yearly Kos conference.
Why don't the weirder comments scare off presidential candidates? Why are conservative Democrats, by all appearances, losing their influence to an army of bloggers? It's actually not because Daily Kos is so hard left and the party is trudging into a swamp. As the DLC's convention, Al From told David Paul Kuhn, the most categorically "liberal" Democratic candidates are preaching an economic populism that "could have been taken from a centrist think tank; in fact, many of them were from us."
In his primordial form, when Markos Moulitsas Zuniga launched a simple politics blog with a pretty design and long comment threads, Daily Kos wasn't actually very left-wing. That's because Moulitsas isn't very left-wing. He was against the Iraq War, and he hated Republicans. People who agreed with one or both of those propositions enjoyed his site. That's how it grew. Its popularity exploded not because the left wing of the Democratic Party needed a romper room. The site grew because it was so…nice. And easy to hang out in. Users could create their own "diaries" and rate them, just like they rated each others' comments. No partisan political blog had done anything like it, and it's probably why the site didn't stagnate or break into infighting.
"Every other political Web site I'd been a part of eventually imploded because the comments got out of hand," Moulitsas told Ana Marie Cox last year. "I wanted to create the premier online progressive hangout."
He succeeded. I argued last year that Daily Kos was simply the first and largest political blog to get subsumed into one of the political parties. That was already the truth at the first Yearly Kos conference. HotAir.com, the Michelle Malkin-founded news site, sent a mole to the conference who came up with… well, with almost nothing. Read his notes and they're indistinguishable from the minutes of any liberal political conference in the year 2006. The one exception was a "tinfoil hat-making contest" that served roughly the same purpose vis-à-vis the media as Avon Barksdale turning his Escalade around to smirk at the cops on his tail. Mockery, basically. "We're here, we're self-deprecating: Get used to it!"
And since then the site's community has only grown closer to the Democratic establishment. Several times a day elected Democrats (or their summer interns—this is still the internet, so who knows?) log into the site and post the same kinds of diaries that the citizen-bloggers post. They don't get chased off or hooted down. They get the kind of responses that Hillary Clinton's web team got when posting a milquetoast press release about the O'Reilly segment.
HRC will more effectively than any other DEM take on the rethuglican distortions and bald-face lies. She will hit back with classy rhetoric as well as point-blank heavy artillary at the RW smear machine. Hillary has been through the political wars, she's battle-hardened, and will not be swift-boated.
Senator Clinton, Howard Wolfson, Peter Daou: Thanks from the Democratic Party!
well done! I'm more of an Edwards/or/Obama supporter. But I think very highly of Hillary also. I have no doubt that she'd be an excellent President. And she's 1000s times better than any possible Republican!
Excellent response, and it shows class and sensitivity. Kudos to the Clinton campaign. By the way—anyone know if she has invited her spouse to YKOS? What's his name again?
This is the terrible secret of political revolutions: It's not the intellectuals, not the firebrands, but the most mundane people who make them possible. You need their numbers to storm the barricades.
That's why I don't expect much in the way of fireworks from Yearly Kos, and why, for example, if Hillary Clinton is heckled, it'll be by the same eterna-hecklers who show up to all of her speeches and boo. (Code Pink would be easy to spot.) Most everyone else will smile politely, clap thoughtfully, and make conservatives and libertarians daydream about an "ultimate online hangout" of their own. Maybe one that's a little more iconoclastic.
David Weigel is an associate editor of reason.