Obama acknowledged the success of the surge but claimed it exceeded the wildest expectations of even Bush and McCain. (I don't see how that's a bad thing.) He would not, however, admit that he was wrong in voting against it. In the process he missed a great opportunity for powerful rhetoric.
O'Reilly: "If we had listened to you, we wouldn't have had a surge and we wouldn't be winning the war!"
Obama (fire in his eyes): "If you had listened to me, we wouldn't NEED a surge because we wouldn't have STARTED this war in the first place!"
Now that's the Obama I love. Unfortunately, that Obama doesn't exist. Obama did not say that; there was no fire. He smiled and hemmed and hawed and said, "Well, we still are paying $12 billion a month on Iraq and..."
This remains an unpopular war among most of the American public and Obama needs to turn up the rhetoric. He would do well to remind us that we wouldn't be in this mess if he had been in the White House. (We might be in other messes, but not this one.) From what I've seen, it appears that as great as he is in a prepared speech, he isn't very good at extemporaneous speaking. Biden is amazing at it and that will help offset Obama's stilted responses, but Biden's not the guy who would be the commander in chief.
O'Reilly next moved on to Iran, and asked specifically what Obama plans to do. What happens if diplomacy doesn't work? Does he think military action is likely? Obama was quite evasive. He responded that, as a candidate for president, it's "not appropriate" for him to "tip his hand" regarding the direction he's going to go in Iran. Excuse me? You're not going to tip your hand? This isn't a Supreme Court nomination hearing, Obama, you are supposed to tell us what you're going to do. Eventually he gave his same old "all options are on the table" answer, but with no specifics.
Upon the conclusion of the interview, my first reaction was that Obama is going to lose. In any moderated debate with McCain, McCain will use forceful rhetoric about the need to use military force and confront our enemies. McCain will have fire in his eyes. Obama is, as usual, going to be very introspective, Kerry-like in his desire for nuance. It's not going to play well among the undecideds who agree the world is a very dangerous place.