Hillary Clinton went on Bill O’Reilly’s Factor. The first half of the interview can be seen here and here. If you grade on substance, she’s fairly awful. She going to sue OPEC through the World Trade Organization and tax oil companies to bring down gas prices. (Honest. No, it’s not clear what happens if OPEC doesn’t answer the first set of written discovery requests.) She’s raising income taxes and she’s not willing to come clean on how much her health care plan will cost.
But on style it’s hard not to gape at her tour de force – pugnacious, funny (she says with a twinkle in her eye that she’d expect nothing but “fair and balanced” coverage from Fox), quick on her feet and, within the confines of her shtick, somewhat candid. She’s a phony, but sort of a real phony.
For Democrats and independents who buy into the populist economics and think someone really is going to have to go fight the mean Republicans and the big bad insurance and oil companies, it’s hard to imagine a feistier combatant.
Republicans have long worried that Barack Obama would be a soothing, deceptively alluring figure in a general election. I think what we saw on O’Reilly was that if she makes it that far, Clinton will be a different, but perhaps equally challenging, figure. Somewhere along the way she learned to articulate a nostalgic, even patriotic vision (“Let’s go back to the 50′s and 60′s,” she says) in which, she says, the middle class isn’t under seige. You can argue with her facts, but the message is clear, the audience specific, and the patter fairly effective. One wonders how skilled John McCain will be in arguing with her about health care and the relative merits of the Clinton and Bush economies. Part 2 of the interview will air tonight.