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Keith Olbermann is incredibly smart: We watch, because we’re paid to

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Ruth Graham
Contributor

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Keith Olbermann, where all the women aren’t as strong as Keith Olbermann, the men aren’t as good-looking as Keith Olbermann, and the children aren’t as above-average as Keith Olbermann.

MONDAY: Keith took Monday off, probably to recover from his strenuous co-hosting duties at NBC’s weekend NFL broadcasts. Lawrence O’Donnell filled in, but he never gets too angry and he seems to have normal levels of self-regard, so it’s just not the same. We missed you, Keith.

TUESDAY: On Tuesday, Olbermann was back, and not a moment too soon. He used the release of the book “Game Change” to revisit the 2008 election, and to claim credit for being the sole journalist digging into Sarah Palin’s background, thereby causing the defeat of the McCain campaign.

GUEST HOWARD FINEMAN: I think the media was a little starstruck [by Palin]. … The McCain campaign didn’t look, the media didn’t look, but the voters did, and that’s one of the reasons why John McCain lost.

OLBERMANN: I looked.

FINEMAN: And you looked.

OLBERMANN: I looked.

FINEMAN: Good for you.

(video clip at the bottom of the article)

WEDNESDAY: When a terrible earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday afternoon, Keith Olbermann was there, at his desk in New York City, 24 hours later, to tell us it was indeed terrible, to speculate wildly about future incidences of mob violence, and, in a comforting bid to return to normalcy, to get mad at Rush Limbaugh about the whole situation. But first, some bombast.

Olbermann opened the hour by somberly proclaiming: “There are words, three of them, that are enough to stop conversation up and down the San Andreas Fault that threatens northern and southern California like a sleeping snake. Three words that have now been pronounced by seismologists near another almost living thing, deep below the earth’s surface, the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault.”

As usual, a model of clarity and accessibility. But what could the three words be?!

“The three words are: the big one.”

Oh. Care to elaborate?

“The island nation of Haiti has suffered its big one, and the results are enough to melt the strongest heart and shatter the most impenetrable soul,” he said quickly and stone-faced. Maybe he was melting and shattered on the inside. (To see a hint of melting and/or shattering, we could have turned to CNN, whose Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta were doing serious reporting on the ground that was human but not maudlin.)

Before long, it was time to make the obvious connection between an appalling natural disaster in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and an ongoing domestic-policy dispute in the richest. Because when you come down to it, this earthquake is really about health-care reform.

What if there was a disaster like this in California someday, Olbermann asked cringing studio guest Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY). “Maybe it’s inappropriate and tell me if I’m inappropriate in asking it,” he continued bravely, indicating a train of thought that often causes feebler humans to stop speaking. But not our Keith. He soldiered on: “How would survivors of something like this here fare in terms of getting on their own feet economically afterwards, with the health-care system we have in place right now?” (The answer: We have a basically functional health-care system in the U.S.; the debate over reform is about distribution and payment in normal times, not after a crisis.)

But no matter. Soon, like a salmon finding his way back upstream to spawn, Olbermann moved on to more familiar territory: bravely condemning Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. In this case, the pair made separate buffoonishly insulting statements about the quake; Robertson suggested that Haitians drew it upon themselves for making a pact with the devil in the 18th century, and Limbaugh said President Obama’s relief efforts were merely an effort to cozy up to the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black [communities] in this country” (almost certainly a reference, ignored by Olbermann, to Harry Reid’s gaffe that had come to light earlier in the week). Now, perhaps you’re thinking, “Pat Robertson is just a senile old fool who no one takes seriously; Limbaugh is a performer who thrives on attention. If you really wanted to punish them, you’d ignore them.” You’re so naïve. In fact, every one of their statements deserves complete attention and outrage from Keith Olbermann, and rest assured they’re going to keep getting it, over and over and over. That’s the only way they’ll really learn.

THURSDAY: And another day, another opportunity to get really, really mad at Limbaugh. Olbermann somberly invoked “a 16th-century saxon jurist” in recounting his nemesis’s latest outrage: Questioning how the Red Cross distributes its aid money. “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes,” Olbermann intoned, which was fair, because Rush Limbaugh questioning the Red Cross is a lot worse than the damage done by the earthquake itself.

FRIDAY: As of this writing, Friday’s show has yet to air. However, the forecast calls for righteous indignation, cherry-picked quotes from beloved old enemies, and an industrial barn’s worth of straw men.

Keith Olbermann and Howard Fineman talk Sarah Palin

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