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Asner still acting and punching with his left as presidential campaign carries on

Ed Asner subtly sounds reveille in the upcoming Generation Gap.

Liberal actor/activist Ed Asner and Republican presidential nominee John McCain are kindred spirits on at least two counts.

Both are war veterans and computer illiterates.

"I became weaned of wedding myself to the computer when I had an assistant that would 'watch' it all day," the entrenched TV icon says in a telephone interview with unclebarky.com. "She had a terrible personality and she didn't have any use for anything except her computer. So I vowed to never be that person. And I've been computer illiterate ever since."

Asner, 78, plays an irascible grandpop in the Hallmark Channel's Generation Gap, scheduled to air on Oct. 25th. Fellow seniors Rue McClanahan, Ralph Waite and Hal Williams also appear on the last living network, cable or otherwise, to pledge allegiance to older stars from earlier eras. Their hangout is a small-town VFW club, with Asner still a commanding presence as WWII veteran "Colonel" Bart Cahill.

"Yeah, it's the last hurrah," says Asner. "I stand in amazement at the exclusion of older performers for the most part. I've been hearing about it ever since I was active in the union (as president of the Screen Actors Guild). But to witness it first-hand is a bit different. I can't leap tall buildings anymore, but I'm a better actor than I ever was in my life."

Asner doubled-dipped as Lou Grant in two classic TV series. The Mary Tyler Moore Show birthed the character in 1970 as the boss of a Minneapolis television newsroom before Lou Grant made a Los Angeles newspaper editor of him. In real life, Asner became SAG's politically outspoken liberal president during the time MTM left and Lou Grant began. He hasn't mellowed.

"I think in many shapes and forms, the lunatics have taken over the asylum," he says. "There's a great chaos in the country. We have a manufactured war that never should have taken place. Basic fundamentals of freedom and liberty are banished. Torture is approved. So tell me where the sanity is, where the standards are."

"We're in free fall. Wall Street is evincing it, just like everything else. We're in deep ca-ca."

He's told that the stock market had just plunged another 450 points on the Wednesday of our interview.

"Oh Jesus!" Asner exclaims. "It's all over!"

His views of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin are as predictable as Sean Hannity's deferential treatment of her during a Wednesday night interview on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. We live in times of manifest polarization.

"I think it's a joke," Asner says of Palin's selection. "The women are so starved to get a national candidate out there that they're flocking to her colors as though it's a great breakthrough in the glass ceiling."

Palin "may be terrific" in the looks department, he says. "She may be a helluva -- I call it a 'hottie.' But I echo (McCain advisor) Carly Fiorina in saying she can't run a corporation."

Fiorina, the former ousted head of Hewlett-Packard, inadvertently stuck her foot in a shredder this week after being asked whether Palin could run a corporation such as Hewlett-Packard. No, she answered, before belatedly adding in later interviews that neither could McCain or the Democratic team of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Subsequent scheduled TV appearances were canceled.

Asner agrees that his hardly surprising views will be dismissed by those who still see him as an irrelevant old Commie or worse.

"They'll say what they want to say," he says.

And furthermore . . .
Asner has won seven acting Emmys and been nominated for another nine. But he won't be watching Sunday night's 60th annual prime-time ceremony on ABC.

"Nope," he says. "I haven't seen most of the shows and I guess you can say if I can't walk the red carpet, I don't wanna look at it."

His all-time favorite TV series all were nominated in their day, and many took home hardware.

Asner names Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Honeymooners, Barney Miller, Cheers and Frasier as some of his personal favorites. What he didn't like much were I Love Lucy or Sex and the City.

His list of drama greats includes The Sopranos, Gunsmoke, The Defenders, The Senator, Masterpiece Theatre and Deadwood. Not that he liked the way Deadwood creator David Milch holstered the show.

"I was enraged at the way he ended it," Asner says. "I thought it was the biggest copout in the world, the way he sacrificed this fantastic piece of work."