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March 28, 2007

Diminished By Their Passing

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Conservative political commentator Cathy Seipp passed away a week ago at the far-too-young-age of 49. In a cruel irony, a non-smoker, she died of lung cancer after a five-year battle with the disease.

In an age of superficial, misplaced values, it is yet another irony that most people are unaware of her work. At a time when the likes of Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith are household names, it is a sad commentary that truly talented artists are relegated to the backbenches by the news media.

Then again, to re-read the previous sentence, one can understand in a nutshell why the mainstream media is in such turmoil. As much as every human life is sacred, the death of Anna Nicole Smith has morphed into farce with the non-stop media coverage of every sad nuance of her sordid life, death and lack of a career.

Meanwhile we face an epidemic of homicides, teenage suicides, and soldiers are dying in Iraq, Congress is spending the country into bankruptcy; militant terrorists still want to kill us; and our public education system graduates too many who can't read, write a coherent sentence or do simple arithmetic.

For many of us, Ms. Seipp was the conservative version of the liberal political columnist and best selling author Molly Ivins, whose equally tragic death at the hands of breast cancer saddened all of us who treasure the elegant use of words to paint a picture and dissect an issue.

When Ms. Ivins passed away in January in her home in Austin, Texas, it was incongruous that I had an open copy of her 1991 book "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?" sitting on my desk beside a copy of Ann Coulter's "Godless."

Both Ms. Ivins and Ms. Seipp soldiered-on in spite of their illness and never lost their sense of humor. In an Associated Press account of Ms. Ivins death, she was quoted as saying, "I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person."

Although Canadian by birth, Ms. Seipp moved to Los Alamitos, California, with her family in 1961, when she was 4 years old. She entered UCLA at 16 and got her degree in English. Throughout the 1980's she made a living as a fashion writer.

Ms. Seipp burst into the news journalism world in 1991 as a writer and media critic in a now-defunct magazine called "Buzz," which graced our intellectual palettes from 1990 to 1998. In Buzz, she regularly peeled away the pungent layers of the Los Angeles Times in a column she first wrote under the pseudonym Margo Magee, a character in "Apartment 3G."

This was long before the Internet discovered media criticism and recognized that we are being ill served by what has now become understood as the agenda-driven misrepresentations by the mainstream media.

Younger readers discovered Ms. Seipp when she started a blog in 2003 called "Cathy's World," or began to notice her as a frequent guest on Dennis Miller's CNBC show. Others followed her National Review Online weekly column titled "From the Left Coast," and her work in the "Independent Women's Forum."

I have always admired the ability of both Cathy Seipp and Molly Ivins to make fun of politics and politicians with a wit and wisdom that will be hard to replace. I learned many years ago not to read their work while drinking Dr. Pepper as invariably it would end up squirting from my ears and my nose.

Many on the left simply admired the work of Ms. Ivins because she regularly skewered President George W. Bush and the intolerance of conservative wingnuts that support every indignant right-wing outburst of outrage.

Many on the right admired the work of Ms. Seipp because she regularly skewered gay marriage, global warming, political correctness, abortion, gun control, and all the Hollywood moonbats, who support every empty fatuous fad that comes down the pike. In the last number of years, the recent target of Ms. Seipp's ire has been healthcare costs.

Such admiration on both the right and the left myopically shortchanges the genius of their work. As opposed to the numerous superficial sycophants that pervade the political landscape of what is supposed to pass as meaningful analysis of the issues we face in our world today.

One needs to go no farther than the simplistic "Bush lied," "English first," "multiculturalism is bunk," sexual orientation is a choice, or Al Gore's heated political polarization of serious environmental issues. Actually one needs to go no farther than the daily assault of empty aphorisms that pass as news-entertainment as delivered by the likes of Katie Couric or Rush Limbaugh.

In the predictable cookie-cutter pseudo-intellectual world of political and issues analysis, where everything is either blue or red; Allan Mayer, the originator of "Buzz," said it best in the Los Angeles Times tribute to Ms. Seipp: "She had a distinctive voice and a truly interesting sensibility. Almost regardless of the subject she was writing - journalism, politics, social affairs, trends - you could count on her to have a well-thought-out but unpredictable take."

In the long run we all need to be human above and beyond our political proclivities. And Ms. Ivins and Ms. Seipp were certainly real and human - unlike so many political pundits these days who have no humanity or any sense of self above or beyond their self-identification as a partisan politico.

I admired their intellectual honesty and I appreciated extraordinarily their artistic genius whether I agreed with their positions on the issues or not.

The passing of both Ms. Ivins and Ms. Seipp leaves a critical void in an increasingly complex world where too many pundits with a keyboard gain notoriety with their shallow predictable opinions and knows-for-sure-what-is-true mentality - but none of them understands the truth.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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