The Great Debate: The Far Right in America

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In "The Great Debate" segment tonight, take a look at this headline in Thursday's New York Daily News. Publisher Mort Zuckerman writes an op-ed that says religious conservatives may hurt the Republican Party. Zuckerman's thesis is that if the right becomes too conservative, mainstream Americans will turn away and the Democrats will benefit.

Joining us now from Washington is syndicated radio talk show host Laura Ingraham (search), author of the book "Shut Up and Sing."

But you don't see it that way. You think the power lies in the conservative — you know, "far right" may not be fair, but let's say "religious right" (search).

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think it's interesting that people like Zuckerman would be saying this now, coming off of an election where President Bush was elected with middle-class support, Bill, from about $23,000 to about $50,000 bracket for annual salary. Bush won by six points in all Americans and 22 points in white middle-class voters. So the Republicans are clearly connecting with the regular people, where the Democrats aren't.

Now, if people are going to call that radical right, I don't know where the middle is. So I think that's wrong.

O'REILLY: Look, the argument from, let's say, moderate Republicans, like Giuliani and McCain is...

INGRAHAM: Liberal Republicans.

O'REILLY: All right. You can define them any way you want. They can speak for themselves.

The argument is if you go into a religious area, where religion drives public policy, on stem cells, on abortion, on a myriad of other issues, that the independent American will then turn away, because they don't want public policy to be driven by religion.

INGRAHAM: Well, I think where the Republican Party is today, it's a pretty big party. There are libertarians. There are neo-conservatives and there are social conservatives. And what we do know, Bill, is that for 25 years, social conservatives have been the core of the Republican Party, with all these other groups in it.

Now, when social conservatives were kind of split between the Democrats and the Republicans, the Republicans were in the minority from 1954 to 1994 in the House and weren't a majority party at all.

So if we want to take the Republican Party back to kind of this genteel, boardroom, country club days, then the Republican Party can kiss its majority goodbye.

O'REILLY: Well, where do you want to take it?

INGRAHAM: Well, I think the Republican Party is best when it's actually responding to the needs of the people. And as you talk to people on your show every day, Bill, I think a lot of our listeners probably think the same things about the borders, enforcing them, the need to cut government spending. And the desire in any way that we can to maybe elevate the culture instead of debase the culture. And those aren't far right positions.

O'REILLY: No, they're not. But let's take, for example, the Terri Schiavo (search) case. I brought a logic to that case, not an ideology. All right? I said, look, it's cruel to the Schiavo family to let this case result in a woman being starved to death, who the family clearly wants to care for. That's cruel, and it shouldn't happen.

But I didn't come in with a religious point of view on it. You see what I mean? While a lot of other people did.

INGRAHAM: Well, we live in one of the most religious countries, if not the most religious country in the world. And if we're going to take religion out of politics, then we would have had a difficult time with the emancipation movement, with the civil rights movement and the women's suffragette movement.

So I think to say, well, religious people have to be quiet and keep their views quiet, I think that's unrealistic. And I actually don't think that's quite fair to them. I think they have the right…

O'REILLY: I don't think they have to be quiet, but I don't think you could make public policy based on what you think Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed would want.

INGRAHAM: Well, I don't know what the heck the Democrats are doing, but I think what most Republicans want, Bill, is they want the people to decide the difficult issues, not unelected judges.

O'REILLY: I agree with that. There's no question about that.

INGRAHAM: Not the U.N. and not university professors. And again, that's not far right.

O'REILLY: If the folks are against gay marriage, then the folks are against gay marriage and the folks should prevail.

INGRAHAM: Right. Is that radical right to you?

O'REILLY: Not at all. I think that's democracy.


O'REILLY: But I do believe that you should have partnerships for anybody, not based on sexuality, to bring people up, to get the same rights as married people. I think so.

INGRAHAM: I think a lot of people agree with that.

O'REILLY: I hope so.

INGRAHAM: For 25 years we've been hearing that pro-life Republicans who are social conservatives can't win the White House. We've been hearing that since 1980.

O'REILLY: Well, that's absolutely not true. Bush won and Reagan won.

INGRAHAM: Right. And the two people who ran as non-social conservatives, George Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, lost.

O'REILLY: But they lost for other reasons than ideology, I believe.

INGRAHAM: Well, they didn't appeal.

O'REILLY: Right.

INGRAHAM: They didn't appeal to the social conservative base.

O'REILLY: Bush was coming off a bad economic situation, and Dole just got blown out of his socks because the economy was good. And people didn't want a change.

INGRAHAM: I just think six years after a Republican presidency and pretty much 12 years with Republicans in control of Congress, and since 1968, except for a few elections, Republicans have won the White House, I think it's an odd time to say, well, because of Schiavo, we need to change course, or this is a danger zone.

O'REILLY: How committed are you to the Republican Party? I mean, they're screwing up the border. There's no question. All right?

INGRAHAM: Yes. They sure are.

O'REILLY: So you agree with that. You're not trying to prop Bush up even with the disaster on the border.

INGRAHAM: No. I think the president, you know, is pretty bold on Social Security reform, but he didn't really campaign on that. What he campaigned on is judges, where he got huge applause. And now the Senate had to deal with the judges issue, because President Bush didn't educate the public, and I didn't think lead the public on the issue of judges as he could have. He didn't do that.

On the border, he is way out of touch with the mainstream Republican Party. I think the radical right position on the border is the position of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Cato Institute, the libertarians and unfortunately, some of the people in the Bush White House have. That's radical. Enforcing the laws isn't radical.

O'REILLY: No. And I think that a lot of moderate Democrats feel the border should be secured, as well.

INGRAHAM: They sure do. They sure do.

O'REILLY: Now, we talked to Dick Morris earlier in the program about the brilliant campaign to undermine the Bush administration by accusing it of being a torture factory. It's a brilliant campaign. Very well coordinated with the human rights groups, with the left-wing press and with the bloggers on the left.


O'REILLY: Bush does not engage that issue. He basically says it isn't happening. But he doesn't explain to the folks why these people are bringing this issue to the fore. How do you see it?

INGRAHAM: Well, I think, Bill, the idea that again, middle America — that middle of the country, not the parentheses, not the coasts but the middle of the country — Americans don't lose sleep every night about Abu Ghraib (search) or Gitmo or detention facilities. Because more often than not people believe we do the right thing 99 percent of the time. And we punish our bad actors. And we do make mistakes.

But the idea that the Democrats think they're going to get traction with Abu Ghraib or with, you know, with the Amnesty International report calling us, you know, Stalin gulag type people, it shows you that again, the radical left is affecting the Democratic Party.

O'REILLY: But they can swing public opinion polls about Iraq. And they are.

INGRAHAM: I think Iraq is a tough one. And it's too early to tell. We'll see how it plays out.

O'REILLY: All right, Laura, We appreciate you coming on the program as always. Thank you very much.

INGRAHAM: Thanks, Bill.

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