I just watched the 15 minute interview that Bill O’Reilly did with President Obama for Super Bowl Sunday. In my view, the President handled the interview with a lot of class, and O’Reilly acted like an ass. He was arrogant, rude, and disrespectful. If he ever did let Obama talk for more than 30 seconds, he would either finish Obama’s sentences or interrupt him with a rebuttal.
After watching that 15 minute interview, I was more convinced than ever that Obama knows how complicated decisions are at his level, he believes that he is making the best decisions, and he wants America to continue to be a great country. Whether you or I agree with all of his decisions cannot change that.
Fox News and Bill O’Reilly assume that Obama is trying to swindle us into something. But just like Fox News does for Democrats, CNN assumes that all Republicans are power-hungry and heartless. Then, just as I am feeling self-righteous about evil the news media outlets are, I will assume that the co-worker who disagrees with me about what we should do next is making a power play.
The thing that bothers me the most about public political discourse is the same thing that I find myself guilty of in my interpersonal relationships: We assume the “other guy” has bad motives. It’s difficult to assume the best, especially when they see the world differently. The easy way out is to vilify them so that we feel better about our own position. “If the other person is evil, then they certainly can’t be correct on this issue, right?”
The more difficult way, and the way that leads more quickly to mutual understanding, is to assume that the person who disagrees with you is just as interested in finding the truth as you are.
The hardest part of living this stuff out is that sometimes you meet someone who really is a pompous son of a bitch who needs to learn how to treat other people. How do you assume the best about him? Perhaps it would help to assume that he was raised in a home that encouraged the kind of behavior that comes off as self-important. Perhaps he is trying to prove something to a father who never really accepted him or encouraged him. Perhaps he is having just as bad of a day as you had a week ago.
Suddenly he is human again. And so am I.
Here’s the full-length interview, if you’d like to see it. It’s about 15 minutes: