Below the Beltway

(Photograph by Evan Agostini/Getty Images; Illustration Courtesy Fox)

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

As I write this, it is almost 6 p.m., and my family is assembling around the TV, eagerly awaiting the start of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," our favorite comedy show.

Now, if you're thinking: "Hey, wait a minute, that's not a comedy show! That's a serious look at world affairs hosted by a dignified, award-winning journalist," then you either:

1) do not watch the show, or

2) are Lou Dobbs.

Lou used to be an actual newsman, but then, some years ago, he apparently realized that whenever he expressed outrage over illegal immigration or outsourcing of jobs -- hot-button issues among the xenophobically inclined -- his viewership climbed. Like a pigeon in a box who gets rewarded with a corn kernel every time he flaps a designated wing, Lou was soon just one big madly flapping right wing.

Before I began watching this show, I had no strong opinion about illegal immigration. Now, I'm in favor of not only granting illegal immigrants citizenship, but also of giving them each a fancy car and a semiautomatic weapon, if for no other reason than to watch "Lou Dobbs Tonight" and see if a man can literally explode from bluster.

Lou grew up in Texas, the son of a propane salesman, and if this sounds familiar, you are probably a fan of "King of the Hill," another really funny show. As you can see from the twinned images on this page, the physical resemblance between Lou and young Bobby Hill -- son of a Texas propane salesman -- is pretty dramatic. Hank Hill always looks at his son and says, "That boy ain't right."

I'm just saying.

"Lou Dobbs Tonight" can sneak up on you, like a pirate ship not flying its true colors. At first, it appears to be a normal talk show in a familiar format, with nicely dressed men and women in swivel chairs speaking in pleasant, professional altos and baritones. But then odd things begin to happen. A typical segment on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" includes an interview with some newsmaker who agrees with Lou entirely on every issue, so the conversations tend to go like this:

Lou: What in the world is wrong with these politicians who want to send manufacturing jobs to China? What are they, idiots?

Newsmaker: "Idiots" is too good a word for them, Lou. They're vomit sandwiches on whole wheat toast.

Lou: Vomit? At least vomit has nutrients in it! They're feces on an onion bagel!


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