May 28, 2007
Defending Rosie (sort of)
Posted by: Chris
By now you've no doubt heard about Rosie O'Donnell's split-screen blow-up last week with conservative 'View' co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Shortly thereafter, Rosie announced she wouldn't return to the show — even though her contract doesn't expire until the end of June. Most pundits dismissed the whole thing as a catfight, which is as misogynist as it is untrue.
I appreciate the Rosie O'Donnell who speaks her mind on "The View" far more than the saccharine sweet Rosie who self-censored for years on her own daytime talk show. (Are you listening, Ellen?) And I appreciate even more a daytime talk show that's willing to feature a toe-to-toe on the Iraq war instead of pander about the latest celebrity DUI.
So let's take the confrontation seriously. Was Rosie justified in the level of umbrage she took from Hasselbeck? The tete-a-tete was actually in response to an earlier show, on May 17, when Rosie argued that U.S. policy in Iraq is a "terrorist" policy because (she claims) 655,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have died. From Rosie's own blog, here's an excerpt of what was said:
O’DONNELL: I just want to say something. 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?
HASSELBECK: Who are the terrorists?
O’DONNELL: 655,000 Iraqis — I’m saying you have to look, we invaded –
HASSELBECK: Wait, who are you calling terrorists now? Americans?
O’DONNELL: I’m saying if you were in Iraq, and the other country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?
HASSELBECK: Are we killing their citizens or are their people also killing their citizens?
O’DONNELL: We’re invading a sovereign nation, occupying a country against the U.N.
Subsequently, Chris Matthews on "Hardball" (hardly a right-winger) and other TV talking heads suggested Rosie was calling "our troops" terrorists. Flash forward to Friday, when Rosie blamed Hasselbeck for not defending her against the charge when the two subsequently revisited the issue on-air. Apparently Hasselbeck only put the question back to Rosie rather than saying she knew it wasn't what Rosie really believes.
Here's the clip for those who want to see:
Lost somewhere in the obvious passion that Rosie brings to this subject is that her provocative rhetoric has consequences, and it's up to her, and not "her friend" Elizabeth, to defend what she says. Rosie's point about U.S. policy is interesting, and one that probably rarely gets heard by a "View"-type audience. She was focused on whether U.S. policy in Iraq is responsible for the deaths of far more innocent civilians than are "the terrorists."
But she can't be too surprised that some would conflate calling "U.S. policy" terrorist with calling the soldiers who execute it terrorists. I've never seen anyone suggest that only Osama Bin Laden is responsible for his terrorist policies, and not the foot soldiers who execute those policies. So Rosie's suggestion is an inflammatory one and, as much as I oppose this war, I'll take Hasselback's side on whether Rosie's wrong-headed or not.
What's more, calling U.S. policy "terrorist" is equally wrong-headed. Terrorists target innocent civilians to terrorize their opponents and achieve their theocratic objectives. U.S. policy, however poorly executed, has been to establish a democratic government and is directed at enemy combatants. I believe that "our side" (including "our troops") have made every effort to spare civilians to a degree far greater than, say, we did toward "innocent" Germans and Japanese during WWII. (Hiroshima anyone? Nagasaki? Berlin?)
The biggest irony, for me, was that Rosie claimed Elizabeth Hasselbeck "cowardly," and yet it was Rosie who bailed from the show after the confrontation. "The View" has at times done a commendable job of breaking the daytime monotony with some real conversation on real issues. But that means engaging in a respectful debate with those who disagree, not walking off in a huff (and a schmaltzy blog poem or two) when we don't get our way.
Speculation on who might replace Rosie on "The View" includes fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who is as loud and as gay-friendly (though with the gay boys not the gals). From everything I've seen of her over the years, I doubt she'd duck from a fight — with Donald Trump, Elisabeth Hasselbeck or Rosie herself.
In case you missed it:
- "Kelly vs. Clay vs. Rosie": An earlier celebrity slam-fest, though somewhat less topical.
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