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Editorials, Dec. 20

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All of us who celebrate Christmas are thankful there's no War on Christmas, no enemy trying to keep us from saying “Merry Christmas” or putting trees in our living rooms or exchanging gifts or singing carols or going to church. There's not even anybody trying to stamp out “Frosty the Snowman,” and if the Christmas season has a weak spot, Frosty is probably it.

The Grinch who steals Christmas is just a children's television program, no more to be taken seriously than Fox News. Coincidentally, certain Fox performers have suggested that somebody is trying to put a stop to Christmas, but the Foxers are only being playful, in a tasteless sort of way. There's no war on tastelessness, either. A right-wing lawyers' group called Liberty Counsel is selling a tacky button that says “I [drawing of a red heart] Christmas,” and that sure doesn't add to our enjoyment of the season. It's the kind of thing Frosty would wear.

Even though it was clearly done in a spirit of fun, a Fox commentator named John Gibson may have carried bad taste too far in writing a book, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.” But no harm done. The book was not a best-seller; used copies are available for a penny apiece online.

Christmas is still here, still popular, still grand. We've heard that privately even Bill O'Reilly observes Christmas, in his fashion. His fashion may not include giving presents.

As fewer Americans than ever bother to vote, the mainstream media pay more attention than ever to presidential politicking. And not to real issues the next president will have to deal with — health care, the environment, the ending of a foolish and deadly war. That sort of attention could be justified. Instead, the journalists cover presidential politics for political hobbyists like themselves, concentrating on which candidate lost ground with what powerful lobby, who misspoke in a debate and who's dressing poorly by the standards of newspaper reporters. The last sounds like a joke, but remember the job the media did on Al Gore in 2000, harping on the unpresidential nature of his dress. And sure enough, Al Gore's clothing was not elected. The frivolity and irrelevance of the mainstream media astonish even media observers not easily astonished. Tim Russert asks the candidates for their favorite Bible verse. (When members of our childhood Sunday School class were required to recite a Bible verse, there was always somebody who said “Jesus wept.”) Katie Couric asks if the issue of global warming has been “overblown.” An astonished John Edwards replied that if anything, the issue has been underblown. Seriousness will get him nowhere with the networks.

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