Dennis Miller may have the most muscular patriotism on the planet -- and he's not afraid to use it.
The comedian has emerged as an unabashed advocate for America, the Bush administration and the military.
He has struck a robust blow for flag and country in antiwar Hollywood, where home-front unity is at a premium.
"I am portrayed as the big anomaly in the community. But if you can't get behind your country at a time like this, what are you thinking? War in Iraq has only increased my patriotism," Mr. Miller said in an interview on May 7.
Mr. Miller was not in stand-up mode at the time, though his one-liners and rants had proved effective weapons in recent months.
"I would call the French scumbags, but that, of course, would be a disservice to bags filled with scum," he told Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show" in February, after France refused to give its blessings to the war in Iraq.
"If you're in a peace march and the guy next to you has a sign that says Bush is Hitler, forget the peace thing for a second and beat his [posterior], because he is not Hitler," he added some time later.
Mr. Miller's public ferocity has been fomenting off and on since the September 11 attacks, punctuated by TV appearances that criticize liberals, prissy journalists and fellow celebrities for reviling the White House in wartime.
Some of those celebrities, he suspects, are closet patriots. And he doesn't believe any antiwar actors and musicians have been victimized for their beliefs.
"I don't think this community is as down on the war as they're portrayed. And as for all the career ramifications -- talk of blacklists for those who didn't support the war -- well I don't buy any of that. There's no blacklist," Mr. Miller said.
He ramped up his profile last week. Mr. Miller wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on May 5 in response to Norman Mailer's London Times Op-Ed piece that claimed President Bush declared war on Iraq because "white American men needed to know they were still good at something."
Mr. Miller responded in kind, calling the Mailer piece "Jacques Chirac's Dream Journal," referring to the French president. The Miller article even cited national poll numbers. Though he already had written five books, Mr. Miller relished the experience.
"It really was a thrill to see something in print, on paper, complete there on the page after all these years of stand-up," he said.
"Dennis Miller is a smart, funny guy, and I thought those qualities might be appropriate in addressing Mailer's argument," said Paul Gigot, editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.
Mr. Miller has bashed the press for years, aiming piquant criticism on journalists who would violate the security of American troops for the sake of their stories.
"It's on constant slip-up patrol now. It used to be the five W's -- who, what, when, all that. Now it's the 5 W's and 'gotcha.' " he noted.
Mr. Miller carefully charted the course of the great Dixie Chicks debacle, which revealed much about the American mind-set in recent weeks. The country music trio suffered nationwide boycotts and ridicule after lead singer Natalie Maines assured a London audience in March that she was "ashamed" Mr. Bush was from Texas.
"What happened to the Dixie Chicks is exactly what should have happened. Natalie Maines was overseas and thought she could get away with her remark. That was naive," Mr. Miller said.
"Then the NASCAR audience got a hold of it through the Drudge Report, and Matt Drudge, by the way, is a latter-day Walter Winchell," he said, referring to the legendary newspaper columnist during the 1940s. "So people got mad for a while, and it scared the girls a bunch. But time passes, and they had a sold-out concert last week. It was a whole life cycle. It ended the way it should have ended."
There is still some residual hubbub, however. Two country radio station disc jockeys in Colorado were suspended on May 6 after they played Dixie Chicks recordings, violating a 2-month-old station ban on the group's music.
As for politics, Mr. Miller is in boxing stance as the 2004 presidential election rattles to life. He already has targeted his initial opponent.
"John Edwards has the most potential as a target for me," Mr. Miller said, referring to the Democratic senator from North Carolina. "He looks like a sketchily drawn John Grisham character. He's the one I'm going to watch."
Mr. Miller, who once described himself as a "lifelong Democrat," became a Bush stalwart.
"I didn't know what to make of Bush in the beginning. I liked his father, but I didn't know the son,"
Mr. Miller said. "Then President Bush got the whole September 11 thing in his lap, and Iraq. And he's dispatched it all beautifully."
He added: "Do I think he led a frivolous life in previous years? Yes. Do I think he saved himself? Yes. He's become a great commander in chief. He's stayed on message -- and I admire him."