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O'Reilly vs. Obama: Was it good for you?

There's no "I" in Obama. But of course there is one in O'Reilly.

So Thursday night's Round 1 of Bill O'Reilly's extended interview with Barack Obama predictably made plenty of room for the host's opinions and first-person references. Beginning with, "Well, first of all, thanks for being a man of your word."

"You bet," Obama replied.

"But I was worried there for a while," O'Reilly added.

Taped Thursday in York, PA, the pair's first one-on-one encounter will be strung out over four nights on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor after a Friday night recess. The host had been goading Obama in the same way David Letterman used to dare Hillary Clinton to do his CBS Late Show. She finally acquiesced while running for one of New York's U.S. Senate seats. And Letterman turned out to be a teddy bear with her.

O'Reilly in his own way turned out likewise. Yes, he poked and prodded at Obama during a discourse on national security, at one point declaring, "You bloviated about (John) McCain not following him (Osama bin Laden) to the cave."

But in a post mortem with two analysts who evaluated O'Reilly's performance -- and basically gave it raves -- The big O' said of the big O, "He's a tough guy, Obama. . . He's not a wimpy guy."

O'Reilly said he deduced this by looking Obama in the eye. The nation can now rest easy.

This is the way game is played, though. You incessantly bait a big fish and ridicule him or her along the way. Then you admire your catch's guts for showing up on your field of play. O'Reilly also credited Obama with being "straightforward" in the face of his "tough" questions. But try as he might, he couldn't get the Democratic presidential nominee to flat-out say he was "desperately wrong" about "The Surge" in Iraq.

Obama did, however, acknowledge that the Bush administration's last-ditch escalation of U.S. troop levels "has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, including President Bush and the other supporters."

O'Reilly openly agreed with Obama that the U.S. invasion of Iraq indeed was a mistake. But he had quite another opinion during a February 2003 joust at Southern Methodist University with MSNBC's equally verbose Chris Matthews.

O'Reilly estimated that the U.S. could win Iraq over in two weeks' time while its citizens rallied around their liberators. Matthews said, and has since been proven right, that "we're going to be stuck in Iraq when we should have killed bin Laden."

So there's plenty of "wrong" to go around, not that O'Reilly spends much time reminding people of his initial position on Iraq.

To his credit, though, O'Reilly engaged Obama in a manner that few do. Thursday night's festivities, on what O'Reilly termed a "huge" edition of "The Factor," whetted appetites for more of the same.

O'Reilly may be a swaggering provocateur, but he had Obama's wheels turning in a way that the candidate likely appreciated. It can only make him stronger while O'Reilly grandly talks about how he, Bill O'Reilly, has mounted another head on his trophy wall.