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DeLay v. O'Donnell, Round 1

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Rosie O'Donnell had better hire a bodyguard, because Tom DeLay is ready to go to the mattresses, having morphed from the Orkin Man into Luca Brasi. In a breathtaking display of hubris and manufactured machismo, he wrote, "If Don Imus falls to the pleas of political correctness, we're taking Rosie O'Donnell down with him."

Oh my, is that a threat? I'm frightened, Auntie Em. Rosie is no Imus - she's never used offensive racial epithets, except for a mild Chinese imitation she apologized for immediately. And just who is this we? Does DeLay now retain the Gotti family? Has the Klan been called out?

And please, Imus did not fall to the pleas of political correctness, he fell because he said a nasty racial slur about innocent victims not in the public eye, it was the latest in a series of last straws, everybody had a conniption, and the advertisers pulled out. No money = no show.

Rosie represents many things conservatives supposedly admire - success, commitment to family, charitable works, and public service. She has succeeded as a comic, actress, TV host, and now a cruise director. She has given millions to charity and established a foundation for children, raising four of her own in a stable relationship. She even tried magazine publishing and Broadway producing, and while those enterprises flopped, she is, by any standard, a huge success.

Unlike DeLay, she's never been indicted. The only crimes she is known to have committed are shoplifting from Woolworth's as a kid (which I also did, but it was K-Mart) and stealing Jerry Seinfeld's act when she started standup, thinking that one merely needed to get onstage and tell jokes, no matter whose they were.

But here's the deal breaker: she's a liberal, loudmouthed lesbian who has opinions, and conservatives just can't stand it.

On The View, she and Joy Behar, Barbara Walters and Elizabeth Hasselbeck chatter in a free-for-all coffee klatsch that would sometimes benefit with subtitles. Rosie dares to speak about her family in the same fashion Hasselbeck speaks adoringly of her husband and daughter. A gay person regularly speaking about their family in the world of TV talk is unprecedented.

And she worships Barbra Streisand, no slouch in the accomplishment department herself, who makes more people happy in two minutes of one song than DeLay will ever make in his life. Conservatives hate that.

She has said things previously espoused by more informed minds, not exactly radical nutcases: she has called Bush's impeachment, voiced disapproval of the Iraq war and rage at the shoddy treatment of the troops. She's said plenty of things, some well thought out and considered, others less so, typical behavior for any talk show host who speaks on the fly. She's nowhere near as knee-jerk as the Jerk himself, Bill O'Reilly.

DeLay, O'Reilly, and most of FOX News are campaigning to get her fired. O'Reilly claims it is because of her "radical" statements, but I would bet a lot of it is because he can't stand gay people who demand the same respect accorded straights. Why would I bet? Because he said it. In 2001, O'Reilly said, "My thesis, you may know, is that nobody should ever talk about their sexuality in any--in any regard ever. You should not define yourself that way. It just makes life a lot rougher. So, therefore, I would probably say, if you're a gay celebrity, shut up."

Ditto with DeLay who, when speaking of gay people, deploys his fly swatter.

They're not alone. Most of America still wants gay people with opinions to shut up. Ellen Degeneres learned that. The final season of Ellen tackled gay issues never before seen in a prime time sitcom, and Ellen was shown the door. Now, on her show, she rarely mentions it and keeps a sunny, non-controversial disposition throughout.

Rosie doesn't, and conservatives can't stand a loud lesbian calling them out, indeed one of the few voices on mainstream TV who never misses an opportunity to mention the wounded troops, something few do anymore. FOX is #1 in cable news for sweeping the troops under the Persian rug.

Contrast Rosie with another successful woman who is not afraid to voice her opinions, Ann Coulter. Coulter's success as a writer and TV pundit is entirely based on slamming liberals. She has no known charitable causes. The only good thing she has done for children is not to have them. She's gotten away with it, in part, being attractive in a Basic Instinct last-girl-at-the-party-at-2 am kind of way, beloved by horny right-wingers, sashaying into interviews in her black cocktail mini dress like she just came from a one-night stand. How many times have you heard Rosie called "fat?"

DeLay wrote, "Where are the demonstrations in front of ABC? Where are the boycott threats for The View's advertisers, or its parent company, Disney? Who is holding Barbara Walters accountable for Rosie's offenses? We can fight like the Left, too." We know that, Tom. You've been doing that and worse for years. But Rosie simply doesn't deserve the protests of an Imus, Coulter, or any other incendiary talker. Rosie is, like it or not, stating what a growing majority of the country thinks. Having failed to destroy the Congress, DeLay is now trying to destroy someone who is far more popular than he. And yes, she's gay. Stop the presses!

In this corner, I put my money on Rosie.