Somebody finally had the testicles to tell Ralph Nader to shut up and go away, and tell it to his face ... well, at least to his voice over a telephone line. The fuzzyheaded sanctimonious egomaniac is again running for president, threatening to tip the balance in favor of the evil warmongers. Who had the guts to tell Ralph where to get off? My new talk-radio hero, Randi Rhodes.
Ms. Rhodes is a spitfire from Brooklyn who honed her talk-radio skills in south Florida (where she beat Rush Limbaugh in the local ratings). She's the queen of afternoon drive, 3 to 7 p.m., on the new liberal radio network, Air America Radio. If you want to listen in Pittsburgh, you have to dial them on the Internet (airamericaradio.com).
Randi told Ralph she was furious with him.
"Why are you denying millions of voters a choice?" asked Mr. Fuzzyhead.
"Because we can't afford you!" bellowed Randi.
Randi explained that Nader's candidacy is like a new pair of expensive shoes she might see in a store window. They'd be a nice luxury if she could afford them. But it can be self-destructive to give in to whims about stuff that would be nice to have (in this case, Ralph's occasionally refreshing rants about corporate greed) but that you just can't afford (because if we don't get the evil warmongers out of office, God knows how many more American kids are going to die for no good reason).
Ralph got tired of Randi's ranting and hung up on her. Randi offered no apologies, nor should she. Finally, a rabid liberal partisan on a national scale who pulls no punches.
Randi is the best thing about the new liberal network. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter John "Hatchet-Job" Hayes recently derided the lib-net for being too partisan -- which is like complaining that Mr. Rogers was too nice -- but other shows do need work. There are two articulate women with rapper Chuck D. on from 9 a.m. to noon. They're knowledgeable, but so far, chemistry is lacking. Either Chuck doesn't have much to say, or he can't get a word in edgewise.
As I feared when I first heard about who the radio execs were hiring, one of my heroes, Al Franken, is funny and wickedly cutting from time to time, but his slow talking style brings down the energy and pacing of his noon-to-3 p.m. show (opposite Rush). He is paired with former NPR staffer Katherine Lanpher, who tries to fill in the blanks.
After a particularly bloody day over in the happy slappy land of the liberated, Al starts an interview with a war reporter by saying, "So, yesterday [pause] not a good day.' Another pause. "We're talking about Iraq," adds Lanpher the radio pro, who is obviously there only because Mr. Franken is not.
It's a little awkward, but these guys are just getting started. And that's the good news. Hallafreakinglooya, the liberals have dipped their toes into the smirky, murky talk radio pond.
I know a kid who's a drummer in a rock band, who wears an earring, and who ought to be thinking groovy liberal rock-drummer thoughts. One day he said to me, "You know, I've been listening to Rush Limbaugh, and I tend to agree: All the Democrats do is whine, they don't have an answer for anything." It made me realize how as-yet-unformed political attitudes actually can be shaped by these yammering yutzes. Even true believers need a little reinforcement, just to reassure them that they're not crazy for thinking we ought to have a good reason to send our kids overseas to die, maybe even a reason that has something to do with reality, as opposed to the nonexistent "grave and gathering threat" WMDs posed.
Until now, Limbaugh and the rest have had the airwaves almost to themselves. Veteran liberal talker Lynn Cullen is still kicking butt locally from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 1360 AM, recently taking Dubya to task for his maddening oversimplification of everything, like suggesting anyone who would take up arms against U.S. occupiers is "against freedom."
But Lynn is a lovely lily pad floating in a sea of conservative pond scum -- just like Air America Radio nationally. The new liberal network is on in only six cities, so the fight is not yet fair ... but at least it's a little more balanced.