Rich vs. Gibson is turning out to be even more fun than Ebert vs. Gallo or Franken vs. O’Reilly were a while back. Well, maybe “fun” is the wrong word. Frank Rich published his latest return-fire against Mel Gibson and his movie in the New York Times today, mostly to counter Gibson’s attacks on his three favorite targets: Frank Rich, Frank Rich’s intestines and Frank Rich’s dog.

The fun part of these feuds, for me, is to see two public figures — one guy who’s really smart and one guy who’s a complete jerk — going at each other hardcore. The smart guy responds to the jerk’s jerkiness with intelligent, well-reasoned arguments, and the jerk responds to being outsmarted and out-argued by resorting to lunatic, childish attacks which make us all laugh.

The problem is that the smart guy is supposed to win. Gallo’s movie got shelved, and pretty much the whole world came down on Ebert’s side. Hooray. And Fox News’ lawsuit against Al Franken’s book backfired, turning it into a best-seller. Victory again. But Frank Rich has had to sit back and watch “The Passion of the Christ” become the 21st Century’s “Star Wars”. In response, Mel becomes more smug and self-righteous, and Frank has to satisfy himself with whatever favorable letters to the editor trickle in. It’s like watching the Ebert/Gallo feud all over again in Bizarro World.

Yeah, “fun” is definitely the wrong word.

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