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Republicans Need a New PR Plan

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Jan• 04•13

O’Reilly: The Republicans need a new PR plan

 January 4, 2013 by WILLIAM F. B. O’REILLY /

The Republican Party may be the only entity worse at public relations than the Israeli government.

Israel can be shelled daily for a year by its neighbors without notice or concern from the outside world, but as soon as she retaliates, it’s an international outrage.

The GOP can hold a winning poker hand, only to learn after the final round of betting that the game has been changed to pinochle. Such was the case in 2011′s debt-ceiling negotiations and in the recent “fiscal cliff” deal, where Republicans capitulated on tax increases without getting any meaningful spending cuts in return. The GOP thought the debate was to be about debt, when it was really about greedy millionaires.

Who knew?

Republicans were correct on the merits in both cases. The real problem in this country is overspending, not undertaxing, and no amount of taxing can fill the hole we’ve dug. But the GOP was made to look like a pack of asses by members of a party whose mascot is a donkey, a neat trick on the Democrats‘ part.

It’s never been easy selling Republican messages. Democrats promise voters shiny objects; Republicans typically don’t — yet fail to properly explain why they don’t.

Built in public relations challenges for the GOP can be daunting, but there can be no excuse for bad press year after year. A major political party must learn how to communicate its messages to voters no matter what. If it can’t, it won’t remain major for long.

The central message Republicans should be communicating today is the need for urgent action on the national debt. But the party’s leaders are reticent to go full bore on the issue for fear of being chewed up by a Democratic PR machine, expert at portraying Republicans as heartless and greedy whenever they propose spending less money.

Mitt Romney ducked the debt issue almost entirely, muzzling his fiscally prudent running mate, Paul Ryan, for the final month of the 2012 presidential campaign.

But the Republican Party is right about the debt. How right?

A friend and former client, Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, puts it this way: “The Republican Party hasn’t been so right on an issue, and the Democrats so wrong, since slavery.”

That’s an audacious statement, but one that’s probably correct. The GOP’s attempts to spare future generations from fiscal ruin is downright virtuous, right up there with its unwavering anti-communist stance, which helped free millions from totalitarianism.

So why can’t the GOP get over the hump on debt? Why do Republicans always end up looking like they want to push grandma from the train?

I’m no public relations genius. I’ve lost more than my share of fights over the years. But one thing I’ve learned in politics is that you rarely win a battle from a defensive posture. A winning party is a party on offense, and I can’t remember the last time the Republicans controlled the national dialogue.

If the Republican Party is to convince the American public that debt poses an existential crisis to the country, it needs to indict Democrats in a publicly engaging way for recklessly stealing from our children. It needs to convince voters of all generations — even liberal voters who cherish the social safety net — that theDemocratic Party in America today is leading us to ruin. The social safety net will, in fact, collapse if we keep doing what we’re doing.

Most importantly, the Republican Party must be willing to lose in the short term in order to survive in the long term as a party true to its convictions — and to its duty to the American public.

This piece originally appeared in Newsday

Magnitude of U.S. Debt Swamps Even Alaska

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 31•12

O’Reilly: Magnitude of U.S. debt even swamps Alaska

December 31, 2012 by WILLIAM F. B. O’REILLY

Sell Alaska to reduce U.S. debt.
What an inspired idea — the best one to come out of Washington in years.
It didn’t come from the president or Congress; it came from Washington Post energy correspondent Steven Mufson. He should win a public relations prize for the effort, the same one the Taco Bell public-relations folks should have gotten in 2001 for promising a free taco to everyone on Earth if the falling Russian Mir space station hit a floating target in the South Pacific. The 40-foot-square Taco Bell float featured a giant bullseye over the words “FREE TACO HERE.”

Utter brilliance.

We’re not going to sell Alaska, of course. At least not yet. But Mufson’s proposal hammers home a point so many in Washington seem to be missing: America is deep in debt. Russian Winter deep.
Mufson is a smart guy, and he actually estimates the value of what Alaska would fetch on the open market today. This massive mineral goldmine, well over twice the size ofTexas and four times the size of California, would conservatively bring in about $2.5 trillion.
I don’t know what your reaction to that number is, but mine, when I first learned it, was, “That’s it? $2.5 trillion? For Alaska!?”
And that’s where Mufson earns his prize.
Fiscal conservatives have struggled and failed for a decade to qualify the extent of the growing federal debt to the American public in a way that can be easily understood. Mufson just did it.
The debt is so big that selling Alaska wouldn’t even dent it.
Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman noted in a column this week that if private-sector accounting standards were used by the federal government, U.S. taxpayers would be on the hook not for the $16 trillion seen on public “debt clocks,” but for $87 trillion. That number reflects hard federal debt (state debt is another worry), plus unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and federal employee pension benefits — obligations we have promised to pay without having a penny in the bank to do so. Those liabilities are growing by almost $8 trillion every year, even at these rock-bottom interest rates.
Think about that.
If Alaska is worth around $2.5 trillion, some analysts say we’re adding three times that amount of debt to our balance sheet every year. And all the while, members of Congress are bragging to constituents at home about their efforts to “protect” entitlement programs from change.
Show of hands: How many of you got a piece of campaign literature in 2012 depicting a senior citizen saying something like, “Hands off my Medicare!”
My wife and I got about five.
How many got pieces from candidates promising to fundamentally restructure our entitlement programs to save the Republic?
Anyone?
So why aren’t we taking the debt crisis seriously? Why do we all go about our business day after day, arguing red herring issues, with nary a thought of the debt we are amassing?
Is this the slow-boiling frog that foolishly fails to leap from the water as it gradually warms? Or is it the illusion of numerical invulnerability that beguiled army after army heading into Russian winters?
Soldiers in Napoleon’s grand army thought it impossible that they could freeze to death en masse as they invaded Moscow in 1812. And yet thousands and thousands did. Are Americans two centuries later demonstrating that same arrogance?
A lot of smart people believe we are.
If talk of selling Alaska or Hawaii or, heck, California, is what it takes to wake us up to the realities of our overspending, then I say let’s have the conversation.
Someone should put a bill on the floor of Congress to that effect with the same devilish grin that the Taco Bell people surely wore while floating a target out over the South Pacific.

This piece originally appeared in Newsday

Staying Ahead of Big Data

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 27•12

O’Reilly: Staying ahead of big data

December 27, 2012 by WILLIAM F. B. O’REILLY

A college classmate of my brother published a futuristic novel in the early 1980s in which every American was issued a bar code by the government for easy tracking and management. The book’s protagonist had a singular challenge plaguing his existence: His bar code number had been inadvertently switched with a one meant for a can of peas.
I don’t know if the book sold well — I can find no reference to it today — but what an entertaining and frightening premise for a mind bender.
It’s now 30 years later and we still don’t have bar codes assigned to us, as far as I know, but we may as well with the way we are tracked by political entities and the private sector. It’s only a matter of time before government catches up.

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Instead of issuing bar codes for each of us — how passe! — we are assigned data points, without our knowledge, that are crunched and squeezed by supercomputers to note our every want and whim, and, more important, to predict our future ones. Indeed, each of us has become a data point in his or her own right, based on what we purchase, how we register to vote, what we read, where we live, what cars we drive, and how much money we make, among a thousand other things. We are a nation of data points.
This system of tracking and managing Americans works. It was the foundation of President Barack Obama‘s successful turn-out-the-vote operation that befuddled Republican pundits, including this one, and it will no doubt be used as efficiently by the GOP in the next presidential cycle.
The technology is being used at all political levels. In the race for State Senate in 37th District in Westchester County this year, people predicted to vote for the eventual winner, George Latimer (I worked for his opponent), were sent score cards by an independent expenditure group — with individualized charts — showing how their past voting participation in elections stacked up against that of their unidentified neighbors. It was a way of shaming voters into turning out.
How scary, how brilliant — although it’s impossible to know just how much the ploy affected the race’s outcome.
Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned an America in which we would be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content our character. King unfortunately failed to anticipate the coming digital age. One’s race is a chief data point among marketers today, especially political marketers, and one’s character can’t be measured as easily as one’s purchases or activities.
Instead of becoming a single people, Americans are being sliced and diced by their individual traits for placement into new, ever-increasing categories for marketers to manipulate. We are being collated by habit, rather than drawn together by commonpurpose.
As helpful as this can be — I like online advertisements tailored to me — there is something creepy and dehumanizing about the direction in which we are inexorably headed. It conjures Mao Zedong’s aborted plan during his calamitous Cultural Revolution to exchange names for numbers in China.
Every New Year’s I swear to eat less, exercise more and go to church regularly, only to end up hating myself for my failures by February. This year, I’m going to try something different, something fun, and maybe even patriotic.
My New Year’s resolution is to confound the data collectors. I invite others to join me.
Beginning Tuesday, I will lie to marketers and pollsters at every opportunity. I’m going to visit websites that specialize in things of no interest, like underwater basket weaving and sixth century cartography. I’m going to search Amazon.com for gerbil food (I don’t have a gerbil) and lefthanded scissors (I’m a righty). The next marketer who asks my ethnicity will be told I am Swazi and that my religion is Eckankar.
This will, of course, do nothing to slow the steady herding of Americans toward this or that thought, candidate, product or activity, but it will make this one American feel deviously freer in the coming year.
I wonder how long it will take before the marketers figure out I’m just “one of those” people prone to rebellion. They probably won’t even have to create a category.

This piece originally appeared in Newsday. 

Uncle Sam Scrooges the Farmer

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 22•12

Bog-Hollow-FarmEvery year at Christmastime my family makes it a point to visit a local farm to cut down our own tree. The trees don’t look or smell any different from the ones we could get at Home Depot, but there’s something magical about walking along rows of pines, firs and spruces with your children in crisp December air. Even when we end up squabbling — “She got to pick the tree last year!” — we come away from the experience with an unshakable case of the warm fuzzies.

We go to a place in Yorktown Heights called Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm that is already an important part of our children’s Christmas memories.

I pray those memories last a lifetime, because if the new federal estate tax rates kick in as scheduled next month, memories are probably all that will remain of our December excursions, not the tree cutting tradition itself. Such would be the recklessness of this federal government.

When the Wilkens family first began plowing the farm’s soil, the grand debate in this nation was whether our boys should go “over there,” as in Europe, where nation after nation was being drawn into a war over nothing.

It was 1916 and, as you walk Wilkens’ 180 acres today, it’s easy to imagine what the place must have looked like back then (pretty much the same as it does now) and to guess what its earliest workers might have been discussing while planting its first apple trees: America’s involvement in that European debacle and, the following year, the Bolshevik class war breaking out in Russia.

A walk onto Wilkens is a visit to a vanishing America. One’s cheeks get rosy simply by stepping foot on the place. After a tractor ride to spot and harvest “the best tree yet,” there’s a visit to the small wood-frame store for hot apple cider, warm doughnuts and maple sugar candy. You have to be careful not to trip over Norman Rockwell at his easel on the way out, or at least it feels that way.

The estate tax, or death tax as Republicans call it, may very well kill off these last vestiges of our American farming heritage. The tax is a family farm eradicator. The reason is the value of land in suburban and exurban communities.

Beginning in January, everything of value a person owns over $1 million at the time of death will be taxed at a rate that begins at 37 percent and reaches 55 percent for value over $5 million. That includes houses, cars, bank accounts, comic book collections … and land. It doesn’t matter that you paid income and sales tax on your possessions while you were alive, Uncle Sam will be coming for 55 percent of everything you accumulated, over a certain value, once you’re gone.

Proponents of the estate tax say it’s intended to hit those fat-cat millionaires and billionaires our president is so fond of demonizing. But the super-rich can afford to pay for intricate tax shelters. Its family farms like Wilkens that get devastated.

Perched on a rise overlooking the rambling hills of northern Westchester, Wilkens is worth millions — on paper. Land developers would snap it up in a minute. But Randy Pratt and his wife, a Wilkens descendant, want to keep it a farm. They don’t want to see it turned into another condominium complex.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday and Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading! 

The Newtown Children Deserve Action

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 18•12
 The Flagpole in Newtown
The Flagpole in Newtown

Our flag stands at half mast, from American Samoa to Maine. It will remain there until sunset Tuesday under orders from the president.

Then, at first light Wednesday, Old Glory will be raised in school yards across America again, and the business of the nation will begin anew.

It seems wrong.

All stories come and go. All news cycles end. But the bewilderment that must have been on the faces of those little children in Newtown last Friday morning demands that we fight to keep this tragedy alive, however painful.

The nation can’t move on until it decides to do something about Newtown. If it doesn’t, it’s not the country we know anymore. We are a land of good people, of good parents. We often disagree with one another. Sometimes fiercely. But we all care about children. They are our common bond, and the fight over gun laws in America now involves them.

If the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary had been carried out by terrorists — as happened at a grammar school in Russia in 2004 — we would be drawing up war plans. I bet a million Americans would volunteer to hunt down the perpetrators.This isn’t so easy. The perpetrators are our own.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday.com. Thanks for reading!


Will We Ever Understand Sandy Hook?

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 15•12

Newsday_logoWould anyone harboring thoughts of shooting up an elementary school or otherwise hurting children please, please, please identify yourselves now.

In your next moment of clarity, knock on the door of your local police station, ring up a psychiatrist — put an email or Facebook blast out to friends and relatives before you can change your mind exclaiming, “I need help and I need it now.”

We promise not to judge you too harshly. We will thank you for your honesty and get you the help you need.

Just please don’t go through with what you’re thinking. We cannot bear it.

If you can’t find the strength to turn yourself in, and you’re definitely going to do something terrible, handcuff yourself to the nearest post and throw away the key. We will sincerely appreciate it. What one man and several guns did at a Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday was as terrible an act as anything we’ve ever seen, meaner even than 9/11 in some sense.

To murder bright, beautiful kindergarten children in cold blood — 6-year-olds — is the purest of evil. It was an incomprehensibly wicked deed that will mar the collective consciousness of this country for years to come.

I don’t know how the parents of the children taken in Sandy Hook — in the middle of Hanukkah and 11 days before Christmas – ever get over this. How can they ever make sense of it? How will the families of the teachers killed Friday recover?

The only sensible words that come to mind were those spoken by Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis the night of April 4, 1968, when news of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination came in. Kennedy consoled grieving Americans by speaking of the pain he felt losing his brother, former President John F. Kennedy, to a gunman. “My favorite poet was Aeschylus,” Kennedy said. “He once wrote: ‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’ “

All we can do as Americans today and tomorrow is pray that the grace and wisdom comes to those who need it as soon and as completely as possible.

These massacres are now commonplace. And like with Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Binghamton, and the Oregon shopping mall this week, we are left to ask why.

Why?

Why are shooting rampages occurring more and more often and with increasing cruelty? How can we not see the true nature of these latent killers in advance? Were there some warning signs we could have recognized? Or is this just inevitable with the number of guns out there? Is it television and video game violence; the loss of spirituality and organized religion among young people — is it psychotropic drugs? The worst part is that there are no answers. There never have been in instances like these. Only heartache and suffering on one of the saddest days in American history.

This article is available at Newsday Westchester and Newsday.  

Is New York Going to Pot?

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 11•12

I’m confused. And a little bit hurt, in all candor.

I thought government loved me.

I was under the impression that the state, at every level, is there to save me from myself.

That’s what I’ve been led to believe. I mean how else could I have interpreted its coddling all these years?

If I don’t wear a seat belt in New York, I am reminded to do so with a $50 ticket for a first offense, and an $85 surcharge. I’m persuaded not to smoke cigarettes with terrifying warning labels and $15 per pack prices, courtesy of federal, state and local taxes.

New York City restaurants are verboten from cooking with delicious trans fats, so precious are my arteries, and my children must be helmeted just to walk outdoors on weekends.

OK, I exaggerate. But their vitamin gummy bears do come with calorie counts.

So why is talk of casino gambling and marijuana legalization the new rage in New York? Can either be construed as somehow good for us?

The rest of this column is available at Newsday and Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading. 

 

Subduing Our Better Angels

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 05•12

Photo by Jennifer Foster

About 25 years ago, while working in the constituent office of a New York City state senator, I gave $20 and a gold crucifix to a homeless alcoholic trying to get to a rehab center, or so he claimed.

I knew the cash would probably go to cheap vodka, but the crucifix and a carefully worded note on Senate stationery that I wrapped around it, I hoped, might spur the man to action.

They did. That very night he cut his wrists with the cross (and lived, according to the police officer who found him and dialed the number on my office letterhead the next day).

Some years later, I came upon an unkempt and precariously seated man at the 77th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station, dangling his legs from the train platform at rush hour. There were people around, but no one was doing anything to assist the fellow, which angered me. A train would be coming along any moment, and he definitely was in a position to be struck by it.

So, in a harrumph to the other bystanders, I reached for his outstretched hand to help him up. He gripped my wrist tightly and tried to pull me onto the tracks, which evidently was his plan — a memory kicked back into consciousness by the subway-pushing death this week.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday.  Thanks for reading!

Masque of the Red Ink

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Dec• 01•12


It was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death.’” — Edgar Allan Poe

No one can do macabre like Edgar Allan Poe, but this 112thCongress is giving the American short-story master a run for his money.

The White House and the Senate, led by Harry Reid, are engaged in a modern-day version of “The Masque of the Red Death” in stubbornly ignoring the entitlement time-bomb that almost assuredly will spell economic ruin for the country when it goes off.

In Poe’s creation, 1,000 members of a land’s nobility, led by Prince Prospero, sequester themselves in a palace in an effort to shut out all thoughts and realities of “the Red Death,” a virulent plague ravaging their countrymen.

In President Barack Obama‘s and Reid’s “Masque of the Red Ink,” powerful Washington special interests are holed up in the hallways of Congress preaching willful ignorance of certain fiscal calamity so that they can keep the decades-long U.S. spending spree going.

The big difference between these two stories, of course, is that Poe’s is fiction. The one in Washington is real, and it will result in severe hardship for generations of Americans to come.

“Unconscionable” is an overused word in American politics, but it fits the deeds of those lobbying against entitlement reform in Washington — like the powerful AARP — as snugly today as one of Prince Prospero’s cloaks surely would have fit him. TheAARP is squeezing Senate Democrats day and night during the “fiscal cliff” talks to block any changes in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it seems to be winning.

The rest of this column is at Newsday and Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading. 

Swiss Benevolent Home, RIP

Written By: Bill O'Reilly - Nov• 24•12

My daughter found this photo at the old Swiss Home for the Aged in Mount Kisco. We’re holding it.

The target was a deserted infirmary, an outbuilding of the once stately Swiss Benevolent Society Home up the hill from where we live in Mount Kisco.

By the time we moved into the Captain Merritt’s Hill neighborhood in December 2007, the main house of the 19th century facility was abandoned and decrepit. The adjacent infirmary, marked with a painted Swiss flag, was in worse shape: broken windows, doors ajar, scattered beer cans and graffitied walls — telltale signs that teenagers had taken residency of the place on many a night since its doors formally shut two decades ago.

The main house and its three derelict outbuildings had come to look like quintessential haunted structures demanding to be explored, and the long, gradual slope leading up to them — decorated with signs reading, “No Sledding” — had been ridden down to mud at the first speck of snow by children on Flexible Fliers and the like since the 1880s, according to local records.
I wanted my daughter not to be afraid of the facility; I wanted her to appreciate things that came before her. But most of all, I just had to see what was inside the forsaken place and she was the perfect cover.

That day marked the beginning of many delightful father-daughter walks around the once grand Swiss Home grounds, where we gorged on wild raspberries and wove intricate stories about imaginary people who had lived and died in the buildings since the turn of the last century.

The infirmary had a massive stone hearth and a disintegrating grand piano, without a trace of lacquer, that must have gleamed when it was young. Around it we conjured suffragettes and aged civil war veterans, with broken limbs elevated, singing gay, patriotic tunes on winter nights. We gave them each names.

On a bench at the top of the hill, a widow and widower surely met and fell in love. There they sat, every day at sunset, holdings hands.

The dances in the main house, which we never entered, had been the fanciest affairs we could conjure. The women wore broaches and ballgowns. The gentlemen came in white tie and tail.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday and Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading!