- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NEW YORK —Sen. Barack Obama competed against himself Monday with interviews airing simultaneously on two networks. They might as well have been two galaxies.

The Democrat waded into cable TV’s blood feud between Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News Channel, becoming as much a bit player as any even-odds presidential candidate can be.

In one interview, Mr. Obama had to fight - not always successfully - to keep from being shouted down. In the other, he couldn’t succeed in keeping a straight face at the ease of answering the softballs tossed to him.

We’ll leave you to guess which was which.

Mr. Obama sat down with Mr. O’Reilly first last week. The Fox host aired a portion of the interview Thursday, and it became the second-highest-rated episode of “The O’Reilly Factor” ever. He’ll spread out the interview over two more nights this week.

Mr. O’Reilly came after the senator for an income-tax plan Mr. Obama said would lower tax rates for 95 percent of Americans while increasing rates for the richest citizens to Clinton administration levels.

The host complained that Mr. Obama wanted “50 percent of my success.” They fought briefly over numbers, and Mr. Obama said to Mr. O’Reilly, “You can afford that.” Mr. O’Reilly said Mr. Obama’s plans would promote class warfare. He called the candidate “Robin Hood Obama” and said the Democrat’s tax plan was a “socialist tenet.”

“If I’m sitting pretty, and you’ve got a waitress who is making minimum wage plus tips, and I can afford it and she can’t, what’s the big deal for me to say I’m going to pay a little more?” Mr. Obama asked. “That’s neighborliness.”

Mr. O’Reilly said he and others he knew would be making fewer stock transfers if the Obama tax plan went through. “It’s going to come back and haunt you, senator,” Mr. O’Reilly said.

The atmosphere was much different at the MSNBC studio in Rockefeller Center. Mr. Olbermann questioned Mr. Obama on Monday and will run the interview in two parts.

He criticized a McCain television ad that characterized the Arizona senator and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as mavericks who can get things done.

What, he asked Mr. Obama, could the Democrat do to prevent people from lying about his record? “Why do people hesitate to use the word ‘lie’ about these things?”

Mr. Olbermann drew a smile from Mr. Obama when he asked whether the candidate should use more “exclamation points” in its statements. “Have you thought of getting angrier?” Mr. Olbermann asked.

The MSNBC host also praised Mr. Obama for his use of the word “enough” in his convention acceptance speech and wondered aloud why the Republicans, in his words, were being successful in muddying the waters of the campaign.

“The Republicans cannot always govern, but they run very smart campaigns,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. O’Reilly said he frequently interrupted Mr. Obama because he didn’t want to let the candidate wander. Mr. Olbermann, in contrast, let him wander and lapse into stump speeches. Mr. Obama ducked when Mr. Olbermann asked him the most direct question - about whether he believed Mrs. Palin had enough experience to be president.

“I’ll let Gov. Palin answer that,” Mr. Obama said with a smile. “I’m sure she’ll be appearing on your show.”

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