Monday, February 09, 2004

That killer right-wing humor

While interviewing Rudy Giuliani last week, that stalwart of journalistic probity, Bill O'Reilly, "joked" that he'd like to kill filmmaker Michael Moore.

O'Reilly, whose interviewing style has never managed to transcend its tabloid-TV roots -- and whose sense of humor, as anyone who has followed his running feud with Al Franken knows, is, ah, deeply impaired, to put it nicely -- was whining once again about how liberals are so mean to him and everybody else. (O'Reilly, heaven forbid, would never be mean to anyone else.)

In any event, O'Reilly apparently believed he was giving tit for tat regarding Moore's contention that George W. Bush was a "deserter":
O'REILLY: All right. I've got one more question for you, all right, and I need -- I need a really honest answer. I know you're a politician and you play it somewhat close to the vest.

Personal attacks. [Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry] McAuliffe over the weekend. Bush went AWOL. [Documentary filmmaker] Michael Moore. He's a deserter. [Some of the] books that are out -- you know, O'Reilly's a liar. Everybody's a liar. Everybody's a cheat and scoundrel, all right. You got attacked personally when you were mayor all the time. ...

[Giuliani then joins in on this prolonged whine: Yes, they're mean mean mean to him all the time too. And for no good reason.]
GIULIANI: You know, when I look at the primary in Iowa, I think that was part of maybe what happened. Edwards stayed out of doing that, and...

O'REILLY: Absolutely. It hurt -- it hurt Dean.

GIULIANI: I think it hurt Clark.

O'REILLY: It killed Clark. Once Jennings nailed him with the Michael Moore thing, deserter...

GIULIANI: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: ... it killed him.

GIULIANI: Yes, yes. I mean where the -- and I think with people even that dislike the president, they kind of -- they still feel...

O'REILLY: Right.

GIULIANI: ... this is too much, desertion is a crime punishable by death. Let's get real. I mean...

O'REILLY: Well, I want to kill Michael Moore. Is that all right? All right. And I don't believe in capital punishment. That's just a joke on Moore.

Ahem. Well.

A couple of observations:

-- There is a broad range of punishments for desertion, ranging from fines and brief imprisonment to capital punishment -- though the latter is typically only meted out on the battlefield. George W. Bush, one will be happy to note, studiously avoided the latter.

-- Moore didn't in any event suggest, in any shape, form or fashion, that he wished Bush dead -- nor even wished him to face any kind of punishment for his wartime behavior. He was, of course, simply pointing out the differences in character between the men, as exemplified by their military records. But then, the latter is a subject that conservatives have avoided almost as assiduously as Bush did his National Guard duty. Thus the "death penalty" diversionary nonsense.

-- Why do we wonder how supposedly responsible newscasters can get away with making remarks that in fact are likely to be taken seriously by the (marginally) less mentally stable folks in the right-wing population?

-- And why do we get the sneaking suspicion that O'Reilly isn't really joking regarding his real feelings about what he'd like to see happen to Michael Moore? I mean, well, did you laugh at the "joke"? After all, neither O'Reilly nor Giuiliani did.

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