Five nights a week, Fox News's pugnacious Bill O'Reilly gives viewers an earful of whatever's on his mind--and they can take it or leave it. In his new book, Who's Looking Out for You?, he offers readers his very opinionated guide on how not to be stepped on or over or spun. He spoke with TIME's Richard Stengel about politics, parenting and his nemesis Al Franken.
YOU SEEM TO ME LESS LIKE AN IDEOLOGUE THAN A DISAPPOINTED IDEALIST. IS THAT FAIR?
I'm a pragmatist. I want problem solvers in positions of power. It doesn't matter to me what their party affiliation is. Only the rank ideologues live under a label, and that's a very small percentage.
WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS BOOK?
It's what I know about the world. And the most important thing that I know is that in order for any American to succeed in this hypercompetitive society, you have to know who the people are who want you to succeed and who the people are who either don't care about you or who want you to fail.
WOULD YOU EVER WRITE ANOTHER MYSTERY?
Absolutely. Mel Gibson optioned [my novel] Those Who Trespass a few years ago, long before the Passion controversy. If Gibson can get this movie made, I have a sequel 75% written.
THERE'S A LOT IN YOUR NEW BOOK ABOUT YOUR FATHER. WHAT KIND OF FATHER ARE YOU?
I was a teacher. I apply the lessons I learned from that more than I would from the home I grew up in, because it isn't the same country that I grew up in. You've got to know what the hell is going on. Because if you don't, by the time your kid is 9, he's going to have all kinds of values that you're going to be horrified by. So you'd better know what that kid's doing, what he's looking at and what he's hearing.
WHEN YOU TELL SOMEONE TO SHUT UP, HAVE YOU FAILED AS A HOST?
Absolutely not. I only do that very rarely. I maybe a handful of times told somebody directly to shut up. And that's when they were being dishonest or offensive.
DO YOU REGRET PUSHING THE LAWSUIT AGAINST AL FRANKEN?
Not at all. This man is being run by some very powerful forces in this country, and we needed to confront it. I was ambushed at a book convention. He got up in front of a national audience and called me a liar for 20 minutes. President Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet between his eyes. Franken's job is to do exactly what Donald Segretti did for Nixon--dig up dirt on people. He is not a satirist; he is not a comedian. He's someone who wants to injure people's reputations, and I think people have got to know that.
HOW POLARIZED IS THE COUNTRY THESE DAYS?
It's as polarized as it's ever been in the history of the Republic. You have fanatics on the left and the right who will do anything to destroy people with whom they disagree. It's vicious, it's un-American, and it needs to stop.
HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS SPOT?
The reason is complicated, but it has to do with the breakdown of the educational system. We're not taught anymore in civics class--they don't even have civics classes in most schools--to respect the other side. What we're taught is that if you're not with this, you're evil, and both sides use this. It's a demonizing tactic, it's cheap and easy, and it's a way to gather votes in an emotional way. It's Huey Long. It's Adolf Hitler. It's Joseph Stalin.