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Bill O'Reilly, Master of the Past

Newsman and author discusses new book 'Killing Kennedy,' LBJ, Robert Kennedy and more

Editors at AARP interview television anchor Bill O'Reilly

Fox news analyst Bill O'Reilly discusses his new book, "Killing Kennedy." — Dennis Kleiman/Retna/Corbis

Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly draws about 3 million viewers to his O'Reilly Factor program every weeknight, so expect both the faithful and the curious to turn out for his 12th book, Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot, when it is published by Henry Holt on Oct. 2.

See also: Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

As he did in his previous work of popular history, Killing Lincoln (likewise coauthored with Martin Dugard), O'Reilly focuses almost exclusively on the president's truncated time in office. He also dusts off a narrative device from the first book — tracking both killer and target along separate but fatefully converging plot lines — to ratchet up the tension in Killing Kennedy.

O'Reilly's fascination with history will surprise only those unfamiliar with his memoir, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. There the veteran newsman (he recently celebrated his 63rd birthday) recounts majoring in history at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and spending a junior year abroad (1969-70) trying to get his fill of European history. O'Reilly also taught a course called Contemporary Problems — apt, right? — at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Fla., from 1972 to 1973.

In a wide-ranging back-and-forth, O'Reilly talked about civics, politics, 20th-century history, his growing distaste for confrontation, his obsession with the country's past and his concern for its future. And, of course, why it would be best to stand well back if Dick Cheney went hunting with Lyndon Johnson.

Allan Fallow: What's the one question you'd ask John F. Kennedy if you could meet him?

Bill O'Reilly: The paradox on Kennedy is his dueling instincts. He's got the selfish, I'm-going-to-do-what-I-want-and-I-really-don't-give-a-rip-on-the-consequences-of-my-actions instinct, but then he's got the heroic, I'm-going-to-do-what-it-takes-to-right-the-wrong instinct. The clash between those two makes him a fascinating figure. So I would talk to him about that.

AF: Why did you choose to profile Kennedy next after Killing Lincoln?

BOR: I want to reengage Americans — particularly younger Americans — with their country. I want to bring alive the people they've heard of, so that the reader becomes fascinated and starts to take an interest.

Next: What O'Reilly learned about Jackie and Robert Kennedy. »

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video extra

Killing Kennedy is Bill O'Reilly's follow-up book to the hugely successful Killing Lincoln. Here's a brief introduction to Abraham Lincoln's humble upbringing in Kentucky — log cabin and all.

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