Looking for a way to put to rest any talk that "The Daily Show" faux anchor Jon Stewart had gotten the best of them when he was a guest on their show, "Crossfire's" Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson had Triumph the Insult Comic Dog hand puppet on yesterday -- the final full day of the presidential race.
"Regular viewers of this show -- both of you -- know that occasionally our guests come on and insult the hosts, so we thought we'd wind up this very nasty campaign by interviewing the Abbot of Abuse, the Viceroy of Vicious, the Pope of Putdowns, the Idol of Insults," Begala began, indicating this was going to be a comedy bit.
"Stop Hurting America!" Triumph, aka the right arm of comic Robert Smigel shouted, mirroring comments Stewart made when he got into his own dogfight on the show, calling Carlson a "[male pride]" but only after Carlson had twice called him Sen. John Kerry's "butt boy."
Carlson, who seemed better prepared this time, told Triumph that they enjoyed hurting America. You got the impression he wished he'd used that line on Stewart. He then called Triumph a "pompous" dog -- again, as if channeling Stewart.
"Get over it! Jon Stewart made you his bitch!" Triumph shot back. Score one for the hound.
"It's good to see that Jon had a real impact on you guys, a real reality check," Triumph snarled. "Jon made some good points -- let's be better journalists, let's book Conan's dog."
"I felt like we have learned something from him," Carlson countered. "That's why we booked you."
We're convinced there was an insult in there, directed at Stewart, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
Carlson, on a roll, noted that while Triumph, a rubber-headed Rottweiler, is a German dog, Triumph speaks with a Russian accent.
"How does that work?" Carlson asked, like a prep school debater who knows he's put a good one over on his opponent.
"Don't question it," Triumph barked. "And I am a real dog, not a puppet. . . . No self-respecting man would sit here and prop up a puppet -- except for Dick Cheney."
(Insert equal-time joke here.)
Carlson wanted to know who Triumph wanted to win the election. Triumph said he couldn't care less, adding that Carlson was the one man "so repellent" he could "make a woman want to sleep with Paul Begala." He called Begala "so far up the butt of President Clinton they call you The Colonoscope."
"You people have a responsibility! Jon is right: This is CNN!" Triumph yapped.
"Okay, now I'm starting to hate you," Tucker responded cleverly.
"This is 'Crossfire'!" the puppet continued. "The 36th most popular show on CNN!"