- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

We can’t very well tell them to “Shut up and sing” when it’s their job to talk. But would it kill those members of the commentariat who are to the left of Bill O’Reilly to at least frown on the absurdities emanating lately from Rosie O’Donnell and Bill Maher?

Neither is an intellectual titan, to be sure.

Yet, by way of comparison, look how quickly and roundly the right disavowed both the dubious thesis advanced by Dinesh D’Souza, a controversial scholar, in his book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” as well as the gratuitous use of the other f-word by bomb-throwing polemicist cum entertainer Ann Coulter.

From the magisterial William F. Buckley to syndicated columnist Mona Charen to fellow think-tanker Peter Berkowitz, conservatives have, in one way or another, rejected Mr. D’Souza’s contention that America brought September 11 on itself — so much so that Mr. D’Souza complained on National Review Online of “the savagery of the attacks.”

And Michelle Malkin — no squish, she — had this to say about the latest Coulter contretemps: “With a single word, Coulter sullied the hard work of hundreds of Conservative Political Action Conference participants and exhibitors and tarred the collective reputation of thousands of CPAC attendees.”

In Miss O’Donnell’s case, no such hygienic opprobrium is necessary; a figurative dunce cap will do.

From her perch on ABC’s menopausal morning chitchat show “The View,” Miss O’Donnell, in her blathery, stream-of-idiocy style, has waxed exquisitely sensitive about the use of the term “terrorist.” It “robs them of their humanity,” she said on March 15.

That was an improvement, at least, over her comment last November that we’re silly to fear terrorists. After all, said Miss O’Donnell, “they’re mothers and fathers.”

Where to begin? With the obvious — that having procreated (as did many of history’s tyrants, including Stalin) is hardly dispositive proof of nonviolence? Or with the implication probably unrealized by Miss O’Donnell? That, yes, terror masters have persuaded mothers to become suicide bombers, which is one of the most genuinely frightening things about modern jihadism.

Miss O’Donnell’s lunatic remarks have harmed neither her reputation nor her career. In fact, according to Hollywood Reporter, she’s in talks to start another solo daytime talk-show gig.

Losing a TV show, meanwhile, is what appeared to have happened to Mr. Maher after his claim in 2003 that it was the September 11 terrorists, not U.S. military personnel, who displayed real courage. The ABC network canceled his “Politically Incorrect” show, ostensibly because of Mr. Maher’s gaffe but, in reality, because it provided a convenient excuse to eighty-six a show that had already been a cellar-dweller.

Cries of free-speech martyrdom, however, helped Mr. Maher land his current gig at HBO, where he recently said: “I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn’t be dying needlessly tomorrow. If he did die … more people would live. That’s a fact.”

The context of Mr. Maher’s speculation was a series of comments posted in the fever swamps of the blog HuffingtonPost.com, many of whose readers expressed disappointment that an apparent assassination attempt on the vice president in Afghanistan had failed.

On his own show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” Mr. Maher tried, as in 2003, to pose as the rugged moral-philosopher at one remove from the genuinely bloodthirsty. He wasn’t actually advocating murder, he later explained on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor”; he was saying that he viewed Mr. Cheney the way some pro-life extremists justify the killing of abortion doctors: that his death, while tragic, would save lives.

In addition to being reprehensible on its face — there’s a reason those who think that way are called extremists — the analogy doesn’t work even as Mr. Maher intended. The left’s knock against Mr. Cheney is his responsibility for getting us into Iraq: his supposed manipulation of intelligence and his rhetorical exaggerations of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

However you feel about those particular horses, the fact is they’ve left the barn — and it’s pretty clear President Bush intends to continue fighting the Iraq war no matter how many heartbeats away from his office Mr. Cheney happens to be.

So, no, it’s not a “fact” that “more people would live” as a result of Mr. Cheney’s death. We’re back in 2003, in other words, with Mr. Maher engaging in speculation of the rankest sort.

What’s most discouraging, however, is the silence of mainstream liberals and media critics. Apparently, every misguided whimsy of Miss O’Donnell and foul theory of Mr. Maher is kosher as long as it confirms the malevolence of the Bush administration.

So addled has the war rendered liberals that they’re not likely to recover their bearings until after President Bush has left office.

That really is a fact.

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