Most political candidates, and their operatives, see it as their job to try to get away with saying nothing. The job of most interviewers is to ask those probing questions that force the interviewees to say something. The result of this conflict is that most interviewers attempt to ask probing questions, but interviewees will not answer them, and it leaves most of these sessions unwatchable. It leaves most of us screaming at the TV: “I don’t care what the party line answer is, I want the answer.”
To accomplish their goal, most interviewees will spend six to seven minutes answering a question by not answering it. The interviewers job, at that point, is to say, “That’s fine, but you didn’t answer the question Mr. President.” If, that is, the interviewer did nothing to put an end to the six to seven minute filibuster. When, not if, the interviewee fails to answer the question again, the interviewer is required to say, “Okay, but you still didn’t answer the question. Would you like one more chance?”
The interviewee then says something along the lines of: “I did answer the question. Just, maybe, not to your liking.”
I’ve heard some people say that Bill O’Reilly doesn’t force candidates to answer questions. His reply is usually something along the lines of: “I told him he wasn’t answering the question, I, twice allowed him space to answer it, and if he still refuses what more can I do? Do you want me to punch him in the face?”
The trick to interviewing a president is to be tough, to grill him, and remain respectful of the office at the same time. As Bill has said, “You can be more confrontational, and less respectful, with just about every other person in our American government, but a president requires a little more respect and tact than the average politician.” Some charge that Bill is not respectful, because he cuts the president off, and he interrupts him. The question that I have for these people is do you want Bill to ask one question and allow the president to filibuster for the next six to seven minutes with a non-answer? The president has done that in interviews on other networks, in speeches, and at committee hearings, and they are purposefully unwatchable. Bill does his best, in a relatively respectful manner, to keep the president on point.
Some have said that in previous interviews with the president, Bill O’Reilly was a bit too chummy. The challenge to a basketball game comes up most often in this charge. That was ridiculous, of course, but the goal was to build some relations with the president to try to get him to come back. The fact that this occurred at the end of that interview left a lasting impression on those that saw it. I never would’ve done it, if I were in a similar position, but having said that Bill was trying to establish a relationship with the president, so the president would come back to do future interviews. Bill is a business man, and he knows that the interviews with the president are good for business.