The other evening (Was it Friday? Yes, it was.) we trudged home from our labors, plopped our sorry ass in to our worn but comfortable recliner and aimed our precious channel-clicking device at the TV, hoping to open some space in our mind with some nostalgia-inducing offering from Turner Classic Movies, a trifling entertainment from the long-dead black-and-white world where Americans brazenly smoked cigarettes that did not cost $8 a pack. But the cable company, which only recently raised our monthly rate by $5.13 (nice timing!) while besieging us with some of the most insidiously stupid commercials in Christendom, apparently was still unable to forward us the signal from the classic movie channel, a lack of service that has now persisted for more than a week. So we clicked down one channel to Fox News, where we beheld a show called Hannity, an entertainment that left us transfixed, unable to peel our eyes away, for far too many minutes.
The bull-necked host---apparently he has shed his lefty sidekick/punching bag, whose name escapes us at the moment---had assembled a panel of guests to discuss the great issues of the day. One was a grumpy, forlorn apparatchik from the Bush White House whose name also was not committed to our memory. The second was a chirpy young gal who once had something to do with an entity called “Rock the Vote” but now labored as a “Democratic consultant,” according to the crawler at the bottom of our screen, and was apparently on hand for some fake stab at “balance.” The third---and we shit you not, to paraphrase Jack Parr, one of the pioneers of the TV talk-show racket---was a gentleman who sported some ersatz nautical outfit (with epaulets, we believe) and was introduced as the “Glenlivet Man.” We did not catch the explanation for the Glenlivet Man’s presence; perhaps it was some jolly in-joke, but it seemed to be nothing special, just everyday business on the Hannity show. (Dave Garroway, another early talk-show pioneer, once had a garrulous chimpanzee for a co-host, and if we’re not mistaken this little man-monkey enjoyed the occasional Pall Mall or Lucky Strike, although we could be confusing him with some other cigarette-smoking chimp from the 1950s. We’re pretty sure, though, that this chimp died and went to hell many years ago, thus explaining his regrettable absence from the Hannity panel.)
But we had no time to ponder the mysteries of tobacco-inhaling chimps or why an epaulet-bedecked representative of a French-owned manufacturer of single-malt Scotch whiskey was on an alleged public-affairs show---we could only shrug when our wife walked into the room and asked, “Why does he have the Glenlivet Man on?”--- because the host was outraged---outraged, we say! What had left him in this visibly agitated state was, of course, our president, who while preening and pirouetting in France had made the wholly truthful but not exactly novel observation that America has, “at times,” been “arrogant,” not to mention “dismissive” and “derisive” toward the rest of the world. This apparently struck some deep, dissonant chord in Sr. Hannity, who did not address the rest of the sentence that Obama spoke, the "on the other hand" wherein the president chided our European cousins for their reflexive, “casual” anti-Americanism (our president now strikes us as a man who likes to turn it every which way but loose).
Perhaps listening to the entire sentence would have sorely taxed the Hannity attention span. The voluble host was so worked up---and this, we’d imagine, is indeed everyday business on Hannity, at least since Nov. 4---you would have thought that Obama had proclaimed that he, Paul, George and Ringo were more popular than Jesus. Hannity professed to not understand how our president could make such a statement, could even conceive in his wildest fantasy that America might be "arrogant," and, displaying his wide-ranging knowledge of matters historical, invoked “Hitler” and “Stalin” and somebody else as examples of the evil that our president does not recognize but which he, Sean Hannity, most assuredly does and is fully equipped, intellectually and otherwise, to deal with.
At that point we were finally roused to change the channel, thus we have no way of knowing whether one of Hannity’s guests, perhaps the dapper Glenlivet Man, piped up to argue that, yes, Americans have been arrogant and dismissive, most recently as we’ve pursued with blood and uncountable wealth “the presumptuous notion that [we] are called upon to tutor Muslims in matters related to freedom and the proper relationship between politics and religion.” That’s Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel, Vietnam veteran and Boston U history professor, in his 2008 book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, a terse, cogent argument---although probably far too long for Sean Hannity---that for 30-plus years America has underwritten its unsustainable “empire of consumption” at home by staking an unsustainable empire abroad.
Bacevich, whose son was killed in Iraq two years ago, is a conservative, but he’s not the kind of conservative that Hannity would recognize. We await that day that we might flip on the TV and see Andrew Bacevich explaining the ramifications of American arrogance to Sean Hannity, perhaps on a evening when the Glenlivet Man is attending to other chores.