Bill O’Reilly was the voice of reason in a conversation about the police. Read that sentence again. Not only that, he also cut Donald Trump off mid-sentence—OK, that part isn’t so shocking on The O’Reilly Factor—to remind the Republican candidate that police can’t just beat people up whenever they feel like it.
Apart from making many on the left feel icky by having to sincerely thank O’Reilly for standing up to Trump’s empty rhetoric, which increasingly carries dark undertones that broadsheets have called dog whistles so often they’ve become more like foghorns, the conversation also highlights the latest in a series of odd-at-first-glance and potentially apocalyptic-at-second comments from the former last place reality TV host.
At the tail end of his bizarre feud with the Gold Star Khan family, Trump unironically asked “What right” Khan had to imply that Trump has never read the Constitution. I know it’s only an amendment, but it is the first one, and it’s kind of important. Trump should know that before he tries to go all John Adams and suspend freedom of speech and the press. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s confused as to why we can’t just nuke those nations that look at us sideways. And now—on The O’Reilly Factor, a show that should be a game of T-ball for Trump—he goes off on an ill-advised diatribe about how the police have been deprived of their “spirit,” citing conversations with a “rough and tough” Chicago cop who wants to use “tough police tactics” to get the city “back on track.”
When O’Reilly helpfully jumps in to explain the concept of warrants and excessive force to Trump, the candidate unsurprisingly pays no attention and continues extolling the virtue of this unnamed, unranked police office who apparently believes, as Trump does, that the problem with police/citizen relations in this country is not enough power in the hands of cops and not enough fear of violence used as a first resort.
It’s obvious at this point to mention that Donald Trump has never occupied space in the real world, where people of color are told as young children never to run in public—not even to catch a bus—because some cop is sure to think they’ve just stolen something and it’s better safe than beaten down or dead. But his idea that the solution to our epidemic and shameful problem with police violence is cops more entitled to use force while “protecting and serving” is beyond the normal fringe-right pandering Trump usually engages in. It’s more immediately dangerous to millions of citizens who now get to deal with a police force that thinks Donald Trump has its back.
As if many cops weren’t condescending enough to begin with, now they have the world’s premiere megalomaniac giving them lessons in what Christopher Hitchens called micro-megalomania, contentedness with absolute dominion over a very small area. It feels like something that shouldn’t even have to be said at this point, but more violent power and less oversight is the absolute worst thing that could happen to American law enforcement. And when you’re so reactionary that Bill O’Reilly sounds like the one concerned with social justice, you’ve got bigger problems than not understanding the right to free speech.