Last Thursday night, I was watching Game 7 of the NHL Ranger-Ottawa playoff series when I got a phone call from a friend.
"Hey, O'Reilly just tore you up," said my friend. "He had your name posted up on the screen -- and he even implied you were a liberal!"
I had achieved my Warholian ephemeral 15 minutes of fame.
Sure enough, when I turned on the rerun at 11 p.m. on Fox Cable News, there was O'Reilly using my Sun Sentinel column (which also appeared in the Media section of The Huffington Post) from that day as a pretext to once again pound Vice President Joe Biden for presumably not being charitable enough.
In his "Talking Points" segment, O'Reilly partially took my column out of context to restate that Biden was a hypocrite for asking taxpayers -- particularly the wealthiest Americans -- to cough up more in taxes to foot the bill for expanded services for the poor while not sufficiently donating to charitable causes.
"'Talking Points' believes in walking the walk,'" O'Reilly said. "If you're a social justice person and want society to help the poor, then set an example."
My argument in my April 26 op-ed in this very spot was that O'Reilly, in a mean spirited way, was wrong to zone in on Biden's charitable contributions because being generous, in the biblical and spiritual sense, should be a private, personal matter between one and one's maker.
I also argued that charity can't be judged by IRS deductible cash contributions disclosed in a tax return alone, and that politicians perform innumerable charitable acts for constituents that go, as they should, unreported.
It was an anomaly that I was watching the NHL playoffs that time of night.
I regularly watch the O'Reilly Factor -- like millions of other Americans. Most of the time, I like his studied analysis of current events. He is an important voice in U.S. politics.
Like fellow pundits on cable, he sometimes has an acerbic (or obnoxious) manner in arguing his points, often dominating an "interview" by continually cutting off the other person to drive home his point (which reminds me of my childhood arguments with my mother).
What motivated me to write last Thursday's article defending Biden was that I was disappointed that O'Reilly had entered the Obama "Distraction Zone" by attacking the vice president.
It's become a distraction a week. Two weeks ago, it was the Buffett Rule. Last month, it was the "war on women." This week, it's the allegation that Romney would not have had the mettle to take out bin Laden.
The Buffett Rule was thrown out there by Obama to promote class warfare and to distract from the president's lackluster first term in office, particularly on the economy. The Buffet Rule is a joke -- its true impact in collecting more money for the U.S. Treasury would be miniscule while punishing the rich for making money.
Instead of calling Biden a hypocrite, O'Reilly should have talked up a change with real teeth -- limiting charitable contribution deductions for the super affluent like Buffett as well as all deductions and tax loopholes altogether.
Eliminating that deduction for the uberwealthy would add tens of billions to the Treasury -- and test how really cheap or charitable the likes of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and other billionaires would be if they didn't have the deduction to use for estate planning and cushy tax avoidance purposes.
The American dream is on life support. O'Reilly (and Republicans) should ignore the liberal media's penchant for esoteric distraction and stick night after night to the major talking points that must be addressed through until November. They are: the moribund economy; massive unemployment and underemployment; the negatives of Obamacare; waste and corruption in D.C.; the debt crisis; high gas prices; our loss of stature in the world; the lack of lending liquidity; and the loss of the average American's nest egg wiped out by rampant foreclosures and the housing crises. That's it.
And Bill, I was not defending Biden because I'm a liberal. I'm not a liberal, I'm not a conservative. Like most Americans who have had terrible losses and struggles and suffered a crisis of faith over the last few years, I'm just plain alienated -- and really tired of the petty political dialogue.
Instead of calling Biden cheap and a hypocrite, stop getting distracted and use your power and influence to keep the truly important dialogue going during this election.
And thanks for the 15 minutes. It was very giving of you.
This column appeared in the May 3, 2012 edition of The Sun Sentinel.
Steven Kurlander's columns appear every Thursday in the Sun Sentinel and every Friday in The Florida Voices. Follow his daily posts on Facebook and via his blog on www.stevenkurlander.com. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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