It's Not Miller Time

Who's in the mood to watch Mussolini debate Eugene Debs on 'The View'?

Smug, arrogant, slightly informed, Dennis Miller rants and cackles and shakes his head with true contempt. Anyone who disagrees with him is on the wrong side of history, if not a danger to the country itself. Why? Because Miller is on the right side of history. How do I know this? He's been saying it for months.

Oh, the references! The references! his new right-wing fans say, impressed with how Miller bolsters his bits by using dissimilar items like the Edict of Nantes, ranch dressing, Coltrane, curling, the House Ways and Means Committee, and Prinze Sr. riffing with Albertson on the set of Chico before he blew his brains out in a Pollock-like spray of skull fragments that when seen from a distance resembles John Kerry's foreign-policy views.

Sorry. After watching two solid weeks of Miller's new CNBC chatfest, my mind occasionally drifts in this direction. It's driving my wife crazy. "Will you finish that damn piece and move on?"

Yes, darling.

From Star Search prop comic to "Weekend Update" smartass to HBO ranter to pomo Don Meredith on Monday Night Football, Miller has had a pretty charmed career. Through it all, he has maintained the same shtick, shifting attack fronts depending on the political season, setting, and mood. His current gig is a mix of "Update," HBO, and Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect and Real Time--only Maher (for whom I once wrote) knows his limits and his strengths and has evolved into a pretty good political humorist. Miller acknowledges no limits. When the red light comes on, he's The Man, spouting off on anything that pops into his head.

In promotional interviews leading up to his show's premiere, Miller let anyone interested know that he is a soldier in George Bush's army. Well, not a real soldier, of course. Miller won't patrol Baghdad or Kabul anytime soon. But he is part of the stateside effort to privatize 9/11 as an exclusive Republican property. I wouldn't be surprised to see him speak at the GOP convention in New York this September, an event that, if handled properly, could become a great monument to the political exploitation of massive human suffering. Who better than Dennis Miller to work that crowd?

Indeed, Miller has already privatized that awful day for himself. "9/11 changed me," he told the Associated Press on January 25. "I'm shocked that it didn't change the whole country, frankly." You see, 9/11 isn't something that happened to America, nor to the people who were killed, nor to their families and friends. No, 9/11 happened to Dennis Miller, and since he possesses such high morality and keen political insight, an injury to him is perhaps the harshest injury of all.

CNBC felt Miller's pain, and so the network granted him an hour every weeknight to vent it. One of the things I love about the Liberal Media is their compassion. Here was Miller, doing short bits for Fox's comedy team Hannity & Colmes, and clearly pining for a spinoff. But, alas, Fox had no room for Miller (how do you top Bill O'Reilly on the laugh meter?), so CNBC stepped in and gave him the eight o'clock slot.

CNBC was hoping for a more urbane version of the Fox vibe, and to a degree they've gotten it. Miller's show has yet to go the Rube Guignol route that Fox viewers prefer, but it's still early. Should Miller's ratings slip, we'll see just what he's willing to do to keep the mouth-breathers fogging their screens.

Another interesting feature of the Liberal Media is how much they love those who call for extended state violence. Most of this is simple supply/demand: Producers and network execs know that the meat of their audience hoots and hollers with every cluster bomb strike. There's little chance that a cable news host will be allowed to swim against such a polluted tide. Ask Phil Donahue. Despite holding MSNBC's top evening ratings, the network cut Donahue loose. An inner-office memo leaked to the press explained why: MSNBC wanted no appearance of opposing Bush during an invasion. The network's suits quickly affixed American flag pins to their lapels and hired the likes of Michael Savage and Joe Scarborough, just to show how much they love democracy, freedom, and whatever else would bring some of Fox's audience their way.

The suits at CNBC don't have to worry about Dennis Miller's views on imperial conquest. George Bush is Miller's Warrior Spirit Guide. No way can the right accuse NBC and its various offshoots of lacking patriotism, not with Miller on board, especially since Miller has cruised with the president on Air Force One and attended the recent State of the Union address. As Miller told Time magazine, he respects Bush because he's devoted to endless war against the Arab world. Hard to say what Bush really thinks, but Miller makes his own thoughts plain: invade Syria, invade Iran (an "easier overthrow" than Iraq, he said last summer), invade anyone who happens to make Miller nervous.

Bombing other countries would be good, too. As Miller opined in one of his Hannity & Colmes routines, if North Korea dares to test a nuclear device, "I think we might have to find out what day the test is and then, in essence, bomb their bomb test. They wheel out their pukey little starter bomb and we trump it with a state-of-the-art 'Fat Boy.' Define the pecking order early on, as it were."

As Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler would say, this is your cable discourse. A nightly display of nationalism, pseudo-intellectual justifications for all manner of violence, and personalities and egos run amok. Miller fits in beautifully, and given that before him CNBC was airing stuff like "Bay-Window-Measuring with Art Howe," Miller's show should be around for awhile.

One positive note--I like Ellie the chimp. A perfect co-host to Miller. Here we have a political animal that farts in Miller's face. That one gesture tells me that Ellie understands the environment she's working in. On a show filled with screeching humans, it's the primate who gets the joke.

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