You say Rivera, I say Riviera; you say Gerald, I say Geraldo.
The wonder boy who has never resolved his identity crisis appeared on The Colbert Show Tuesday night to tout his new book His panics. With one foot on the “his” and the other on the “panics” Geraldo seemed not to get how much the title defines his own dilemma.
A child of a mixed marriage, Gerald/o changed his persona on demand depending on which relatives were visiting. It wasn’t until ABC drafted him to boost their roster of nonwhite males at a time when corporations actually counted ethnic surnames to ensure their claim to diversity that the name Geraldo took root. The young law school grad had had no prior journalism training or experience, but what he did have was the right kind of name and a spirit of opportunism that has become sharper and more focused over the years.
When the winds were blowing in favor of muckraking, Geraldo showed up and played hero; when the public pulse seemed to be itching for reenactments of the coliseum, Geraldo entered the ring amd put up his fists; when the pubic was glued to their flickering tvs at the beginning of the embedding of the Iraq War, Geraldo upped the ante by deftly drawing the lines in the sand to show the US military plans to the world. Quite a coup.
And now that Lou Dobbs has become master of white man’s payback, Geraldo is taking him on. Once a darling of right-wing talk shows, Geraldo has lately taken his cues from the left, trying desperately to appeal again to those he once dismissed. The winds have shifted, perhaps indicating a climate change. It was just a little over a year ago that Geraldo railed about going toe to toe with Keith Olbermann, who had called Rivera on his “reporting” from Iraq. To which Geraldo replied with a few expletives and then described how he would fight him, adding, “I would make a pizza out of him [Olbermann]."
This was not Geraldo’s first (nor will it likely be his last) foray into pugilistic commentary. His new book is designed to bring the bigots out of the closet and to take some of that coveted, hot spotlight away from Dobbs. Geraldo, though, will portray the fight as personal, as if he has suffered great indignities because of his ethnicity. Although apparently his mother’s family wasn’t happy about her marriage to a Puerto Rican, Geraldo was raised as a middle-class Jew, complete with a bar mitzvah and college education. His identity with his Hispanic roots was a career move. But Geraldo hasn’t had much publicity lately, having been ousted as one of the embedded reporters who have since won favored media spots.
So now, with a new cause celebre in hand, Geraldo troted out on The Colbert Show looking for the “Colbert bump” as Colbert himself comically characterizes it. The look on Geraldo’s face when Colbert played the August ’06 clip in which Geraldo appeared on The O’Reilly Factor and trashed Comedy Central and Colbert, was priceless. [Here’s the whole clip: http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/index.jhtml ]
Colbert skewered him. Unabashedly, Geraldo admitted that he switched sides to sell his book. Geraldo should have anticipated Colbert, but he was so caught up in his own hubris that he was taken by surprise--‘his’ ‘panic,’ if you will. By courting those he thinks support his position on immigration, Geraldo assumed that all would be forgiven, that he would be given the hero’s welcome for taking on Dobbs. Like some of the politicos Geraldo once zealously and carelessly cheered, he has used up his capital. Having no one left to alienate, when Geraldo spits in the wind, it comes back to hit him in the face.