AGAIN THIS WEEK, Michael Vick proved that he can catch more headlines than President Obama, or even Gov. Rendell.

In a statement notable for its seismic stupidity, conservative talking head Tucker Carlson said on a cable-TV show that Vick deserved to be executed for torturing and killing dogs. The statement was made worse with Carlson, by way of some lefthanded, inverted exoneration, describing himself as a Christian.

Let's take that part first.

First, his religion is immaterial.

Second, in its most idealistic form, Christianity should oppose the death penalty.

Third, in the United States, the death penalty is generally applied to people who kill people. As much as I loathe Vick for what he did to dogs, as much as I emotionally sympathize with Carlson's opinion, it is intellectually bankrupt.

Tucker Carlson became an avatar for what is wrong with TV talk shows, most especially those on cable. The producers, and the ratings, "reward" the schmuck who makes the most outrageous comments. Carlson, who pranked me earlier this year by pretending to be Keith Olbermann in an e-mail exchange, got what he wanted - reaction. His dopey remark even led the 11 p.m. news on a local channel.

In today's wired world, the most reasoned, well-articulated opinion and argument seldom gets the most "clicks." It is the braying of the loudest jackass that sets the table for our national debate, for which we are all partly to blame. If we didn't watch and respond to the toxic crapola, it might go away.

In an unrelated note, a private conversation between Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and Obama was revealed in which, among other things, the president praised the owner for giving Vick a second chance. (By the way, there is no such thing anymore as a "private conversation.")

The chief-exec-to-chief-exec chat session was mainly about other things, such as the Eagles' laudable energy-conservation efforts, but when I read that Obama had praised Lurie for giving Vick a second chance, I asked myself, wouldn't this praise have been more laudable 18 months ago, when the rusty Vick was hired, rather than during the week when Vick was selected for the Pro Bowl?

Vick's superior play (until Tuesday) rallied many of the undecided fans to his side, but others, such as myself, remain on the sidelines. We are less interested in the quality of Vick's play than the quality of his heart. He has been going around to schools saying the right thing, but is his heart reformed? Is he truly repentant? Repentance must precede forgiveness. For me, that jury is still out.

I am willing to weigh the evidence, but not even a Super Bowl win (fat chance) would answer the question of Vick's soul. (The Best Friends Animal Society, which got most of Vick's abused dogs, is still waiting for a visit or even a call from Vick to inquire about their costly rehabilitation. A check might be nicer than a visit.)

In a postgame interview after the Tuesday debacle that cost the Eagles a bye week, Vick was asked about an injury he got early in the game. He sloughed it off, saying winning was what matters most to him.

I couldn't help but think that that attitude might explain why he executed dogs that were not "winners."

That's my hypothesis, a question.

As to Carlson, if he gave any thought to it, which is unlikely, he did the one thing he didn't mean to do. He turned Michael Vick into an object of sympathy.

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