I’ve now watched two episodes of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher’s new live discussion show over on HBO (whoa, Bill, get your makeup redone and re-shoot that photo – looks like the guy from Six Feet Under did a number on you!).

While I can stand Bill in small doses, I cannot deal with Arianna Huffington, who is one of his frequent panel guests and who used to also be a frequent guest on his other show, “Politically Incorrect” (which got cancelled when it lost its edge and became, oddly enough, too politically correct).

To be honest, I had never heard of Huffington before I saw her on “Real Time” 2 weeks ago, and I was about to dismiss her into the category of all the other “famous for being famous” people whose star must’ve risen when I wasn’t paying attention – then I noticed her name in the list of columnists over on the Drudge Report, and realized she was a columnist appearing in the LA Times and other editorially liberal newspapers.

THEN just today I saw a quick piece of hers in the new issue of Fast Company magazine and I realized:

This is the woman who started the anti-SUV movement!

Arianna grates on my nerves for a few reasons. First of all, her appearances on Maher’s show have only proven one thing: she dispenses her opinions in carefully-crafted soundbite-style phrases, throwing witticisms around like she is just hoping one of them will be picked up and launched into the American lexicon right along with “Generation-X” and “Where’s the beef?” I’m not sure her opinions are actually researched, because she never talks about how she has carefully checked her facts – she just spews.

Second, she’s what I call “rabidly political” – someone who starts (as Bill himself noted) with an intense hatred of a particular person involved in a political issue (in this case President Bush – the issue can be anything, she hates Bush equally on all issues), and then spends her life finding ways to hold that person up to criticism and unsubstantiated ridicule. (My point here is NOT that GW shouldn’t be criticized – of course he and others should be – my point is, people like Huffington seem to live for the opportunity to spew unsubstantiated hate-based soundbites – which Maher’s audience, unfortunately, is willing to allow to go unchallenged.)

There are a lot of these types of folks around on both sides of the political fence, and frankly, I have no use for them. I would rather listen to my favorite reformed Democrat Dick Morris than to a hate-spewing, discredit-someone-at-all-costs Republican – I just cannot stand that type of rhetoric. Such has been the gift of “Crossfire” and “Hannity and Colmes” – two “serious” news shows I can do without.

Finally, I despise Huffington’s holy, “I’ve-had-an-epiphany” attitude. She claims in the Fast Company piece that she ditched her Navigator one day for a Toyota after a light-bulb went on suggesting that SUV’s were the root of our dependence on foreign oil, and all I could think was that she traded her dependence on foreign oil for dependence on foreign oil AND a foreign import.

The anti-SUV argument just does not hold water (er… oil) in my opinion, folks. No matter how far Escalade sales plummet this year, it’s not going to make a dent in our dependence on foreign oil because “foreign oil” pervades our society in so many ways OTHER than the vehicles we drive. From “home heating oil” to the plastics in virtually every product we purchase, oil is everywhere.

Arianna’s crusade against SUV’s (explained at www.americansforfuelefficientcars.org and its sister site, www.americansforshorterandmoreintuitiveurls.biz) – even if coupled with Robert Kennedy Jr.’s crusade for hydrogen fuel – isn’t going to equate to even a piss-dribble on the forest fire of our oil-dependent existence. (Now Arianna, how’s that for a lexicon-bound soundbite? Yeah, I know you’re jealous.)

Like her friend Bill Maher’s conclusions regarding those American flags you see flapping in the breeze from our car windows, trading in your SUV for a Toyota is quite literally “the least you can do.”

Editor’s note: this post first appeared on my original blog, “A Blogger Looks at Forty,” in 2003. I have to say, Arianna Huffington did alright for herself, building that Post thingy and then selling it for a bazillion dollars. It must be killing her to be such a successful Capitalist.

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