DUSTY RHOADES: Bless Your Heart: Taking the Edge Off Political Zingers
But MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has made his feud with O'Reilly a regular feature of his show "Countdown."
He's repeatedly listed O'Reilly as one of the top contenders in his "Worst Person in the World" segment, never letting up on O'Reilly's reputation for bullying and sexual predation.
Fox News, for its part, has responded by -- wishing Keith well.
What's this, you say? Is Fox News -- that hotbed of hysterical bashers of anything-not-Bush and one of the last places to take Ann Coulter seriously as a pundit -- actually acting with some class?
Well, no. Not exactly. See, Fox News has turned "we wish him well" into its signature kiss-off, according to recent stories on NPR and The Associated Press.
In Olbermann's case, Fox News' PR flack said, among other tidbits, "We hope [Olbermann] enjoys his paranoid view from the bottom of the ratings ladder and wish him well on his inevitable trip to oblivion."
Oooh, snap! And as with any good talking point, Fox likes to use this one over and over.
When NBC's Tim Russert had the audacity to suggest that Fox was getting preferential treatment from the White House, Fox's PR flack shot back, "Tim's sour grapes are obvious here, but at least he's not using his father as a prop to sell books this time around. That said, we wish him well on his latest self-promotion tour." (Ever notice how Fox seems to think having written a book is cause for scorn?)
Or take this shot at actor and Oscar-nominated director George Clooney: "It's obvious he needs publicity considering his recent string of failures. We wish him well in his struggle to regain relevancy." (Ever notice how much time Fox spends responding to people it claims are irrelevant?)
Of course, as a Southerner born and raised, I'm familiar with our own homegrown version of Fox's "wishing someone well." Except here it's called "blessing his heart."
Like "we wish him well," "bless his heart" can have a meaning that actually is complimentary.
Example: "I went over to granny's house and mowed the lawn for her." "Well, bless your heart!" "Bobbi Sue won the spelling bee." "Well, bless her heart!"
But it's also the tag line you can add to the worst insult to make it look like you're not being catty or mean. "Bless her heart, that girl's ugly as a mud fence." Or "That boy's dumber'n a box of rocks, bless his heart."
Maybe it's my own Dixiecentric outlook talking, but it seems to me that "bless his (or her) heart" needs to be used more widely, especially among feuding members of the media.
Take for instance, the recent O'Reilly radio show in which a caller, "Mike from Orlando," mentioned Olbermann's name. ("Mike from Orlando" is actually Mike Stark, whose Web site "Calling All Wingnuts" gleefully recounts his on-air run-ins with right-wing radio hosts.)
Now, some radio hosts would have been happy just to hit the cutoff button and move on. Not our Bill. "We have your phone numbers, by the way," O'Reilly warned. "So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit."
Now, the way that was phrased, it sounds -- well, a little freakin' nuts, is how it sounds. I mean, does O'Reilly think Fox Security's coming to knock down the doors of those who irritate him? Think of how much better it would sound like this: "Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit, bless your heart." Doesn't that sound less insane?
And because fair's fair: Keith Olbermann, you should feel free to toss in a couple of "bless your hearts." Like for instance, on a recent show where you noted that O'Reilly's ratings were trending down while MSNBC's were trending up, it wouldn't have killed you to put it this way: "Bill, seriously, it's slipping away from you. You don't know what to do. You can't even lie well anymore bless your heart."
I'll even take my own advice. Republican icon Ann Coulter recently criticized the "Jersey Girls," the widows of 9/11 victims who've pushed for a fuller investigation of pre-9/11 intelligence failures, saying they're "enjoying their husband's deaths." So I can say, "That Coulter girl is meaner and crazier than a frying pan full of coked-up rattlesnakes on a hot stove. Bless her heart."
Thank you for listening, and I wish you well.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage.
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