January 7, 2002
Jackie Corr, Butte Montana
Nobody who watches television can doubt that Bill O'Reilly is the leader of the pack over at Fox News where he hosts the Rupert Murdoch journalistic centerpiece, "The O'Reilly Factor," a talk show where intelligent people yell and scream at each other to the delight of the host. O'Reilly also has three current books in print, The O'Reilly Factor, The No Spin Zone, and a fictional account of the TV news racket called Those Who Trespass. Not once in any of the three books is the word Vietnam mentioned.
But Vietnam aside, O'Reilly's popularity to a great degree is based on his warm relationship with America's army of Bill and Hillary haters. And his enemy's list is not limited to the Clintons, running from Martha Stewart to Jesse Jackson. Another factor of The O'Reilly Factor, is faithful audience identification, hard-core loyalists who never doubt that the Clintons are guilty and their champion remains the strident and abrasive foe of America's mostly rich liberal elite at whose hands working class O'Reilly has suffered grievously.
Despite the suffering and snubs that have been inflicted on him, O'Reilly never ceases to remind the audience of his nobility and that he is true to who he is: "I'm working-class Irish American Bill O'Reilly." Of course, O'Reilly's definition of working class is as bizarre as that of President George Bush who never worked a day in his life while his spins reek of the same fantasies as those of his brother Foxie, "General" Geraldo Rivera, the savior of Afghanistan. But left out of the O'Reilly past is any evidence of "Just Plain Bill" working at a menial or blue collar job or time served in the American military.
The Vietnam War simply never happened.
So let's get to the point. The striking fact of O'Reilly's past is that the Vietnam War simply never happened. In "Bill O'Reilly's Nothing But Spin Zone," the great eraser works tirelessly and he comes from a world where there is no Vietnam and no draft which is rather strange for someone who grew up in the era. Vietnam, the overwhelming event of O'Reilly's high school and college years is never mentioned in his books nor on his television show. Even in his attacks on Clinton there no mention of "Slick Willie Clinton the Draft Dodger." And the why of it is pretty simple. Bill O'Reilly at least matched Bill Clinton's Vietnam War record.
O'Reilly graduated from Chaminade High School in Long Island in 1967, a year in which 10,000 Americans, some younger then O'Reilly, died in Vietnam. And in these years, 1967-1968, O'Reilly would have to register for the draft and then make a decision. While America's lower economic classes were being drafted or enlisting there was a ways out for many of the despised liberal elite. It was called the college deferment followed by graduate school.
And Vietnam was not something that you just overlooked or forgot about. In 1967-68, American airwaves and newspapers were filled with stories of battles called Operation Cedar Falls and Junction City, of places named KheSan, Locninh, DakTo, as well as the Tet Offensive and the MyLai massacre. And there were massive demonstrations and marches in cities and on campuses including the famous Kent State photograph.
Yet O'Reilly, at his age and single, was high priority draftee material yet never enlisted or was drafted and his record of the Vietnam era remains blank. Today's - but not yesterday's - super patriot, entered Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York in the fall of 1967. He was active as a columnist for the student newspaper The Circle as well as a member of the football team which meant he suffered no great physical handicap which would exempt him from military service.
In the bloodiest days of the Vietnam war we find Bill O'Reilly and Bill Clinton as college students in England.
O'Reilly spent his junior year, 1969-1970 at the University of London. The previous year, 1968, Bill Clinton had entered Oxford. So in the heat of the Vietnam war and its greatest battles, we find Bill O'Reilly and Bill Clinton as college students in England. In these years, U.S. troops in Vietnam topped the half million mark and American combat deaths now totaled thirty-three thousand, a sum greater than the Korean War. And in 1969, Life magazine shocked America with portrait photos of all 242 Americans killed in Vietnam in just one single week.
Then, in the fall of 1970, he returned to Marist College from England, rejoined the football team and graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. In that year, 1971, American deaths in Vietnam passed the forty-five thousand marker.
Additionally, at the time of O'Reilly's graduation, a draft extension bill was passed along with what was then known as the Mansfield Amendment which set a national policy of withdrawing troops from Vietnam 9 months after the bill's enactment (wording was later softened to the "earliest practical date"). It was the first time in modern US history that Congress had urged an end to a war in which the country was actively involved
Yet after graduation, and with the conscription law and the draft lottery in full force, O'Reilly would never be inducted. Instead, he was off to Florida where he took a job teaching at a high school. Two years later, in 1973, he was back in college at Boston University for a master's degree in broadcast journalism. By that time he finished at Boston U., the draft and the war were history. And neither would ever play any part in the life of one of America's most vocal defenders of patriotic ways and values.
Despite O'Reilly's historical amnesia, Vietnam and the draft really did happen. Two million Americans served in Vietnam with 500,000 seeing actual combat. The latest number of killed in action totaled 47,244. In addition there were 10,446 non-combat deaths while 153,329 Americans were seriously wounded, including 10,000 amputees and over 2400 American POWs/MIAs.
But in "The Nothing But Spin Zone" you will find not one word about Vietnam or the draft. It simply never happened in Bill O'Reilly's version of the Irish - American working class theme park.