Years ago my father, a lobbyist, would sit down on Sundays to watch "The McLaughlin Group," which he referred to as "The Shouters."
Pop, an advocate of the soft sell school persuasion, got a kick out of listening to the panelists, well, shout at each other.
He also told me of a commentator from the old Metromedia Channel 5 in New York, a Dr. Marty Abend, who represented the right wing on shows, usually paired against someone like Ted Sorensen.
When discussing the latest friction in the Mideast in, say, 1973, the lefty would say all the usual things - "We can't interfere with the rights of blah blah blah."
Abend's rejoinder: "Nonsense! Seize them! These are not countries, they are sheikdoms! Seize them!"
"Seize them!" is a standard line in my family, along with other classics such as "What do you think this is? A club?" and "Used to be a bowling alley." (I will explain these another time.)
For whatever reason, I have been watching the new breed of shouters quite a bit lately. And not really digging them, either. Here are my impressions of the current Shouters:
Alan Colmes is a ferret-faced weasel. (Or weasel-faced ferret, if you prefer.) His favorite rhetorical device is to ask, "Well, what about George W. Bush?"
His dorky pal Sean Hannity is dreadfully earnest. I don't trust the earnest. They make me nervous. He reminds me of those Mormon kids doing their two years of missionary work, right down to the short-sleeve shirt and tie he would undoubtedly be wearing if someone from Fox's wardrobe department hadn't intervened.
Hannity is polite, though, which counts for something.
Bill O'Reilly is an appalling, smarmy character and a lousy interviewer to boot. He doesn't try to change the subject a la Colmes, he just blathers straight through any dissonance.
And Greta Van Whoosiewhatsis? How does she talk without moving her mouth? (Mary Matalin does this too.)
Keith Olbermann wears those stupid little rectangle glasses, his suits are too big and too padded, and he thinks he's funny. He is mistaken.
And Chris Matthews is a slobbering ninny. Is it too much to ask that he actually pronounce the words "Social Security" ?
(He says, and I can only approximate because there is no way to spell the sound of drooling, "Sohsh Secur.")
Never mind their politics, their ratings gimmicks, the brainlessness of the whole cable news shtick.
These people are just not entertaining, except as neo-circus freaks.
I can't imagine any of them having the wit and panache to simply say "Seize them!" and be done with it.