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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

car-toon (kär-toon)   a humorous or satirical representation of; caricature; a ridiculously oversimplified or stereotypical representation of a boorishly dopey fiction that one cannot believe came out of the mouth of a real person; a joke.

You would think, after what we've learned from the repugnant Denmark-Mohammed-derogatory illustrations that have led to death and destruction, we would be more careful in broadcasting cartoons that insult the intelligence of anyone with half a brain.

Yet despite the undebatable likelihood of dire consequences, this past week Fox News and talk radio decided to transform their hosts and reporters into full-fledged cartoons.

The transmutation of Fox News into Fox Kids didn't take all that much effort. After all, a joke is a joke. These guys just made it a bit more kid-friendly. Blur the lines of credibility and add a little more color, and voilà: Disney.

The change was subtle, at first. Before his full transition into a Tim Burton/Gahan Wilson nightmare, Bill O'Reilly, spent much of his time ripping into CNN reporter Christine Amnapour for offering (what he called) her "opinion" on Larry King. Of course, Bill often calls himself a "reporter" before "opining," and reporters can be heard slinging opinions on any Sunday morning talk show, but Bill thought Amnapour was violating the reporter code of ethics. Had he confined his disgust to the fact that no credible reporter would appear on Larry King, he might have garnered a solid check in the sagacity box.

But a guy's entitled to his opinion, even if it's that others shouldn't express them. That's why it was a bit surprising when Bill brought on Fox's crack White House reporter, Carl Cameron ask his opinion.

Usually Bill waits a decent interval before reversing course and running full speed in the opposite direction, but it was clear that normal rules no longer applied; O'Reilly had crossed the city limits into Toontown, and there was no going back. I called in my children to watch the show -- who knew what wackyness awaited on this episode of the Factor For Kids?

O'Reilly wanted to ask Cameron about how terribly the "hate-Bush" White House press corp had beaten up presidential press secretary Scott McClellan over the Dick- Cheney- shot- a- 78- year- old- lawyer- in- the- face incident. Bill and his Scooby-Doo buddies on the right felt that a sitting vice president shooting a guy in the face was, at best, "a page six story."

The fun continued as Bill brought on former network newscaster Marvin Kalb, and prefaced his questioning with a recap of "it's a page six story at best" (running jokes and call-backs are the legal foundation of any good 'toon -- see: Duck v. Fudd), then delivered his "the Vice President shooting someone doesn't affect me or America" premise.

Kalb reminded Bill that the shooter was a heartbeat away from becoming the president. So what? Bill asked. "How does that affect me?" Ignoring a character's wholly rational answer to a preposterous question has long been the backbone of cartoon mayhem (re: Itchy & Scratchy episode, "Itchy Shot The Sheriff, But He Did Not Shoot David Gregory").

But O'Reilly's Beavis didn't diminish the pure comic genius of his Buttheadwellian conviction that there was nothing amiss about a sitting vice-president waiting nearly twenty-four hours before revealing, through a non-governmental ranch owner, that he had shot a guy in the face. Or that an "eyewitness" -- who did not actually eyewitness the shooting -- would insist there was no drinking prior to the shooting, only to be contracticted by the vice-president's later witnessing of his own drinking (to wash down his heart please-don't-attack-me drugs?) or that sheriff deputies were suspiciously prevented from coming within breath-o-lyzer reach of Cheney on the day of the accident. No, this does not demand anything more than page six positioning, where I assume Bill believes the comics belong.

O'Reilly wasn't alone. Roger "Rabbit" Ailes and his stable of animated pals like Hannity and Gibson (Dumbo and Dumbo'r), as well as talk radio's Yosemite Sham, Rush Limbaugh, spent the week creating cartoon calamity, placing Cheney's smoking rifle in the hands of NBC correspondent David Gregory and a bomb under Helen Thomas's turban. Hannity insisted that there was no record of any drinking in Cheney's past. I'm guessing that Dick's two DUI's don't count in the wacky world of fictional news. Like I said...cartoons. So fun.

Fox capped its cartoon marathon with Brit "The Tick" Hume gently guiding Cheney through his Mickey Mouse mea culpa, a performance that hate-Bush-mongers like Peggy Noonan, Marvin Fitzwater and Ari Fleisher didn't find believable. In fact, you have to wonder why anybody finds anything on Fox News believable. But then again, everyone knows it's time to suspend a sense of disbelief when the cartoon starts.

WHAT TOOK SO LONG NOTE: For years, Carolyn Kay, the grande dame of has asked the same question at the end of each of her columns: If Bush commits a crime and no one hears about it, has a crime really been committed? Seems that this past week Cheney tried his best to answer Kay's question.

Steve Young, author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" can be read every Sunday in the LA Daily News Op-Ed page (right next to Bill O'Reilly)

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Albion Monitor   February 20, 2006   (

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