By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“The Europeans are impotent, are they not?” barked Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly at Pat Buchanan a couple of hours before Senator John McCain took the stage on the opening night of the Republican National Convention. And sitting at home, I looked straight at the television screen and said: “Yes, Bill, they are. No European has had sex in years. That’s why they have such a low birth rate.”
You hear funny things on Fox, where women, particularly blond women, are for reading the news but men are for shooting their mouths off and “opining” on it. (Opining is a favorite O’Reilly word — on Fox, liberals pine, Republicans opine.) O’Reilly was, of course, not talking about the Old World’s urgent need for a shipment of Viagra but about the Old World’s urgent need to stop being such goddamn peaceniks and start lighting some fires under their collective derrières. At least I think that’s what he was talking about. After a while it’s all a bit of a blur.
The Republicans were in town, and the boys over at Fox News were among the few people in New York who were excited about it. Über-conservative Sean Hannity of Hannity and Colmes, whose hairline begins an inch above his eyebrows, was ready to rock ’n’ roll, or at least listen to some country music, and his beady eyes were focused like lasers on incoming Democrats. As for his co-host, designated liberal Alan Colmes, he seemed to be wasting away onscreen. With every passing show he looks thinner and paler, a man born not of the womb but constructed by a group of renegade scientists sponsored by Rupert Murdoch to prove just how ineffectual Democrats can really be. (An article about him that appeared in The Onion had the headline: “Alan Colmes Loses Argument With 9-Year-Old Nephew.”)
Earlier in the day, John Gibson of Fox’s afternoon show The Big Story With John Gibson had argued that there are a lot more Republican sympathizers in New York, or at least pro-war types, than most people think. As evidence of this he pointed to the fact that no big-name New York Democrats had taken part in the massive anti-Bush rally on Sunday. Why? Because although the Democratic Party itself is anti-war, Gibson argued, significant parts of the Big Apple are still “pro-war, pro-retribution, pro-revenge, pro-attacks” on those who might think about hitting us again. “Too many families here lost someone [on 9/11] and want someone bombed,” he concluded.
Yikes! Are we really that bloodthirsty? So callous that we just want “someone” bombed? I imagined one of my European friends listening to that outburst and watching his jaw drop as all his most paranoid fantasies about post-9/11 America were ratified. What’s so reprehensible about statements like Gibson’s is that they actually misrepresent what the military does anyway. If we were that casual about bombing people, there would, for instance, be no “Fallujah problem.” There would just be Fallujah rubble.
The classiest guy who pops up regularly on Fox News is probably Weekly Standardeditor Bill Kristol, who is always smiling. I don’t think there’s another television news analyst who smiles as much as he does. (If he were female, people would call him a bimbo.) But the one time I met him, at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000, he wasn’t smiling at all. In fact, the expression on his face could accurately have been described as a scowl. Predictably, there wasn’t a television camera in sight.
So who is Bill Kristol? Is he Smiley-Man or (as Pat Buchanan claims) a power-drunk courtier who, along with Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, is one of the Princes of Darkness behind the Iraq War? I don’t know. We may be too deep into the Matrix to tell. But toward the end of the night, after John McCain had spoken and Rudy Giuliani had sung his three-hour aria, Terror (I Fear Thee Not!), Kristol seemed so exhausted, his eyelids so heavy, that I think he was talking in his sleep. Impressively, he made perfect sense nonetheless.
The convention’s opening night went well for the Republicans and, therefore, for Fox News. John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani — let’s face it, the Democrats would kill to have those two on their side. And on Tuesday night there was Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Hollywood star who, politically speaking, was worth about 400 Tim Robbins and several thousand Sean Penns, airfares to and from Iraq included, even before he’d become governor of California. Nor should we forget Ron Silver, the liberal actor turned foreign-policy hawk, who looked so ferocious as he spoke at the convention about 9/11 that I think even Sean Hannity might have found him frightening. “We will never forget, we will never forgive, we will never excuse,” he said, and he was, to put it mildly, believable.