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'The Factor' Debates Whether America Is a Dumb Country

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," July 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, with us now, Naomi Wolf, the author of the book "The End of America", uh-oh, and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a FOX News analyst.

DR. MARC LAMONT HILL: I like that.

O'REILLY: Now you're a pretty smart guy. Columbia just hired you, right?

HILL: Yeah.

O'REILLY: To you teach, you know, corrupt minds of students, paying a lot of money?

HILL: It's a very conservative institution. I'm just trying to bring it to the left.

O'REILLY: Sure it is. You got your little red hat with a star on it. So when Maher says we're a stupid country, you say what?

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HILL: I think I understand what he means by that. He's saying that America is an anti-intellectual nation. And in many ways, America is an anti-intellectual nation. We often elect presidents based on whether or not we want to drink a beer with them. If a guy has too many credentials, too many degrees, we start to say we think he's an elitist, we think he's too distant from the people. There's a certain skepticism and wariness from people with high education. And the fact that Sarah Palin can emerge, someone who doesn't seem to be strong on intellectual gifts, I would say that proves my point.

O'REILLY: Well, I would say it absolutely does not because she did well running a state, whereas a much smarter guy, Deval Patrick, who you know, has been a disaster as a governor. So look, you have to equate performance here.

HILL: Do you think that Sarah Palin is as gifted in intellect as some of the people who have run for president in the last five years?

O'REILLY: I think she was hired to be the governor and did a good job in the state. That's it; that's provable.

HILL: But the question from Maher was do you think she'd make a good presidential candidate.

O'REILLY: No, the question was she's a stupid idiot. That's what he…

HILL: No, no, no.

O'REILLY: ...was saying, but she's not.

HILL: He was saying America might even elect her as president because…

O'REILLY: Because they're stupid.

HILL: Because we're anti-intellectual.

O'REILLY: Because she's stupid and the voters are stupid. Come on.

HILL: She's not stupid, but I do think there's something to be said about her lack of intellectual talent.

O'REILLY: You see where I'm getting here. You have a performance level from Governor Palin, but she is considered by the far left as a moron. It doesn't jive. She did well running the state. She's not a moron.

NAOMI WOLF, AUTHOR, "THE END OF AMERICA": I don't think — I can't speak for the far left. I don't think America…

O'REILLY: You can't? You live there. Come on, Naomi.

WOLF: That's so unfair.

O'REILLY: You live there.

WOLF: I speak for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights…

O'REILLY: All right, exactly.

WOLF: ...that transcends partisan politics. But I think that what is important is to go back to the founders and think well, what — when Jefferson was imagining that the people were going to run this republic, he imagined that it would be ordinary people but that they would be educated, that they would have...

O'REILLY: Sarah Palin's educated. She's got a University of Idaho degree.

WOLF: Well, Sarah Palin, there was a fascinating clip that went viral on YouTube that showed Katie Couric asking her well, what kind of magazines and newspapers do you actually read. And she couldn't answer the question.

O'REILLY: But what does that mean?

WOLF: So I don't think a smart American cares if the leader of the nation went to the University of Idaho or to Harvard, Yale or just graduated from high school. I think we, the people, care that our leaders know what's going on in the world and can make sensible decisions on our behalf.

O'REILLY: Do you think America is a stupid country? Most voters are stupid?

WOLF: I do not think America is a stupid country. I think Americans are woefully misinformed and sometimes deliberately — here's an example. Only one in two high school students graduating take civics anymore. They're not teaching them how the structure of our republic was created or what it means to be free. So half of American freshmen, college freshmen can't identify key aspects of our republic, of our system. So that makes us vulnerable to demagogues. And it makes us vulnerable to extremists on the right and the left, who try to get us to make a — vote or make a decision...

O'REILLY: But is that the prevailing — see my…

WOLF: ...based on soundbites.

O'REILLY: I understand the collapse of the public education system in this country. I used to be a high school teacher, and there's no doubt, it has collapsed. It's coming back a little bit now, but not much. But if somebody doesn't know who their Supreme Court justices are, or the three legislative body, legislature, the executive branch, the judicial branch, they don't get that, that doesn't mean they're dumb.

WOLF: No, of course it doesn't mean they're dumb.

O'REILLY: Because they could - look.

WOLF: But it's a serious matter for the Republicans that people can be misguided.

O'REILLY: Here's the reason Barack Obama's health care deal is failing. It's because Americans are smart, Doctor. They've watched Barack Obama try to explain it and he can't. And they said, you know what? I don't know micro health care issues. I know the president doesn't know what he's talking about, at least not now.

HILL: I think the problem is though when you have a nation that is unwilling to read bills, unwilling to read the details, that to me is an anti-intellectual posture. Even to go with your gut; the idea that I'm going to go with my gut...

O'REILLY: They watch me and others like me for that kind of information. Nobody can read a thousand page…

WOLF: I've got to jump in. Not contradicting you…

HILL: No.

WOLF: …but taking issue. I wrote a sequel to "The End of America" called "Give Me Liberty" about how citizens can take back the power…

HILL: Yeah.

WOLF: …to lead and to run things as were meant to by the founders. And those bills, they are incomprehensible on purpose.

HILL: You can't - no, no.

WOLF: You can't understand them, and no one's translating them.

HILL: That's an important point.

WOLF: You can't even go on the Web site of Congress of your state and local representatives and understand in plain English what's coming up.

HILL: No, no, I'm with you.

WOLF: And there - and that's intentional. That's to keep us in the dark.

HILL: There's no doubt about that. I'm not blaming the people as such. But I am saying at this moment, there seems to be a woeful ignorance to many of the inner workings of government.

O'REILLY: All right, we're getting a little too…

WOLF: But people are working two jobs. The shouldn't have to read 400 pages.

HILL: I…

O'REILLY: Wait, whoa, whoa. Who am I? I am the anchor.

WOLF: You're the boss.

O'REILLY: You guys can go out to dinner afterwards. You're getting astray here. OK, the far-left elitists portray any populace as a bumpkin. That's the problem.

WOLF: That's their mistake. That's their mistake.

O'REILLY: That's right. If you are pro-choice, you're a bumpkin, OK? If you go to church, you're an idiot. And that's why the far left in this country is despised and will never ever have any power. Giving you 20, giving you 20.

WOLF: You have a point.

HILL: I don't disagree with the idea that there's a level of elitism from the far left, but there is something to be said about shifting what we think about this, so that we do become more invested in intellectual inquiry.

O'REILLY: I want people to be as informed as possible. Go ahead, 20 seconds.

WOLF: Well, as I said, you have a point. I've been hammering on the far left, as you put it, for a long time, because there is this instinct to talk down to people.

O'REILLY: That's right.

WOLF: You know, if you have a gun, if you go to church, if you are pro-life, there's this assumption that, you know, you're not smart.

O'REILLY: Barack Obama got in big trouble doing that in Pennsylvania.

WOLF: And I think it's really important for us as a republic to transcend partisan differences and say you know what? I don't vote like you. I don't have a gun, you know…

O'REILLY: But you're not an idiot.

WOLF: I am pro-choice.

O'REILLY: OK.

WOLF: But I respect you.

O'REILLY: And I think we all should acknowledge Sarah Palin did a good job as governor of Alaska.

WOLF: I can't go there.

O'REILLY: That's bizarre.

HILL: We went into the last second to throw that.

O'REILLY: Fifty-five percent of the people in Alaska say she did. You have no right to say she didn't.

WOLF: She quit.

O'REILLY: You don't live there.

WOLF: What kind of role model is that for our young girls…

O'REILLY: That's a different deal.

WOLF: …who want to run for president?

O'REILLY: She might be a quitter.

WOLF: She quit. She gave it up.

O'REILLY: While she was there…

WOLF: She gave it up.

O'REILLY: …she was effective.

WOLF: You don't want that running the country.

HILL: Approval ratings don't mean anything.

O'REILLY: All right, both doctors, thanks very much.

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