Rosie and Elisabeth's latest, and most lethal, The View smackdown, resulting in hurt feelings, endless YouTube plays and Rosie's heading for the hills, was riveting TV not just because of the spectacle of two physical and political polar opposite females airing their female trouble. It wasn't just Tugboat Annie running roughshod over Miss New Jersey. It was the current American argument in microcosm: liberal vs. conservative, traditional vs. secular, Democrat vs. Republican, one version of the truth vs. another. It was every verbal joust between political opponents at every protest rally. We all substituted discussing for screaming long ago.
Granted, not all of us are rich TV personalities who are able to comfortably segue from a screaming rant into a cat food commercial. But how many times have you gotten into a political or social argument with a foe only to have it get ugly and emotional in 2 minutes? Here's a typical exchange:
LIBERAL: George Bush has destroyed everything that makes our country great and led us into a mess we may never get out of.
CONSERVATIVE: Why do you hate America?
LIBERAL: I love America, which is why I'm so distressed at what's happened to it.
CONSERVATIVE: It's because of people like you that we're in the state we're in. You would be happy if we were all speaking Arabic.
LIBERAL: You're delusional.
CONSERVATIVE: You're a traitor.
LIBERAL: You're fat.
American liberals and conservatives have become as compatible as Sunnis and Shiites, and the blame lays primarily at the feet of TV know-it-alls who turn the tiniest detail into a character assassination, just so they can play "Gotcha!" This infects the broader populace who, after watching these bloviating bimbos, suddenly thinks they're a pundit, too, and channels them in their arguments. No one seems interested in reasoned discussion and actually solving a problem. Everyone just wants to win. That's the American way, right?
What happened on The View with Rosie and Liz got a lot of ink because it happened on a daytime women's show formerly best known for celebrity interviews and cooking, as well as the entertaining spectacle of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, like getting stoned and watching The Hours. But it's nothing compared to what goes on nightly on Hannity & Colmes or The O'Reilly Factor. Those shows without name-calling and shouting would be like a porn movie without sex, yet they get less attention than The View because most of the time it's just a bunch of guys doing what guys do -- beating their chests, harrumphing and marking their territory, desperate to prove themselves right and their opponents wrong whatever the cost.
I would pay money to watch an exchange like this:
SEAN HANNITY: Don't you want America to win this war?
DEMOCRATIC POLITICIAN: Yes, I do, and here's my proposal.
HANNITY: Hey, that's an interesting proposal.
REPUBLICAN POLITICIAN: Let me see that. Wait, this will never work.
DEMOCRAT: Well, what if we took this out, and this, and then put in what you had mentioned before? That way both sides would get something, the war would be over and we could all go home.
REPUBLICAN: OK, I could do that.
DEMOCRAT: Cool. Let's go play golf.
HANNITY: We'll be right back.
Well, I can dream.