Friday afternoonat the office and the news from Washington was depressing. Outside, on7th Ave., it was just as gray: drizzly, smoke pouring out of Healthy Choiceand a guy grumbling about Rudy Giuliani's "shop till you drop"gimmick, claiming that the only items for tax-free purchase are pawed-over,outsized pieces of clothing. Sean Hannity, the meathead conservativetalk-show host on WABC who sounds like he's never read a book, hadgiven up on the impeachment trial after the news bulletin that Sen. RobertByrd, that cranky "conscience of the Senate," called for an up-or-downvote on continuing the process. I'm in full agreement with Byrd that PresidentClinton acted shamelessly with his pep rally on the day of his impeachment,but the old buzzard's canonization is a little hard to stomach. Later thatnight, on a cable tv show, Ann Coulter ranted that Byrd's merelya pork senator who's had "every building in West Virginia morethan two stories tall named after him."
Hannitycan get hysterical (although his screaming match with Clinton lackey AlanDershowitz several weeks ago was pure radio theater) at times but Friday'sshow wasn't one of them. He took comfort in sports nostalgia: Ah, whereare the New York Knickerbockers of my youth, the Walt Fraziers,the Willis Reeds and Dave DeBusscheres. Hannity, about to weep,was in a fetal position, at 4:16 in the afternoon, after months of battlingagainst shills like Sid Blumenthal, "Upchuck" Schumer,Terry Lenzner, James Carville and Hillary Rodham;it's sad to listen to a grown man melt down on the air. Minutes later,a less downcast Matt Drudge joined Hannity and agreed it's all over.

Could bethey're right. Alex Cockburn called with a cackle on Thursday, askingif I'd like to boost our wager on whether Clinton will finish his term."Not this week, Mr. Las Vegas," I said with a sneer in my normallycheery voice. "This is the week for Clinton, with his phony-baloney grabbag of socialist goodies that will never come to pass. But the tide will turnwhen witnesses are paraded in front of the somnambulant senators." Alexlaughed, I told him to go smoke a joint, you smelly hippie, and we chatted amiablyabout the journalistic atrocities of the week. My bravado is now in question.