Something’s different this week. Can you feel it? The sky is bluer, the air is warmer, the grass is greener, and there’s been a sudden drop in foaming-at-the-mouth incidents across this great land. That’s right: Keith Olbermann has been away all week! He skipped last Friday, showed up for a Special Comment on Monday, and then disappeared again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
At first, when faced with this unexpectedly Olbermann-less week, I clicked my heels and breathed a sigh of relief. Sweet freedom! But halfway through the week, in a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, I started to miss the guy. Without Olbermann, who would remind me that Rush Limbaugh hates puppies and babies? Who would warn me about the imminent collapse of civilization at the hands of Michael Steele? Who would tell rambling personal stories about the intimate health problems of elderly relatives? (Direct quote from last Wednesday: “A nurse noticed what seemed like a minor infection just below the surface of the skin, a kind of super-pimple, if you will. It was actually the edge of a series of abscesses which would be drained and would produce, all told, about six liters of infected stuff.” Really and truly, he spoke these exact words on air.)
Sure, long-suffering Lawrence O’Donnell has been substitute hosting “Countdown” this week, but it just isn’t the same. I haven’t heard O’Donnell mention a single one of his relatives’ paper cuts, let alone swollen “super-pimples.” So, in a fit of Olbermann withdrawal — and in fear that, if rumors are true, “Countdown” might not be long for this world — I tuned in to fellow MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan to get my fix of lefty high dudgeon.
Ratigan, the long-time host of CNBC’s “Fast Money,” moved to MSNBC last year, and he seems to be breathing down Olbermann’s neck. He sports a familiar tone of righteous anger and his show features a recurring segment called “Busted” that carries more than a whiff of Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World.” Furthermore, a the time of Ratigan’s departure from CNBC, his colleagues suggested he was “easy to anger and difficult to work with,” which would certainly make him a natural heir to Olbermann. Not making him the natural heir to Olbermann: His expertise is in financial reporting, rather than sports pontificating. Greg Gutfield recently called Ratigan “the angriest person in America.” He has a history of yelling.
Case in point: On Tuesday, Ratigan welcomed Tea Party leader Mark Williams as a guest. Now, this threw me for a loop initially, since I’m quite certain Olbermann has never invited a guest on “Countdown” who so much as disagreed with his necktie selection. The closest Olbermann has ever come to engaging with the opposition is when he went home for Christmas in 1980 and his uncle admitted he voted for Reagan. They haven’t spoken since.
Anyway, Ratigan may have invited Williams onto his show, but the gesturing toward even-handedness ended there.
After yelling at his guest for a few minutes, Ratigan huffed, “You’re wasting valuable oxygen. Can we please cut off this man’s microphone? He has no interest in answering my questions. Mark, a pleasure. Actually, not really a pleasure. It was offensive, you’re offensive, your treatment of my show as a vehicle to spread your propaganda and ignore my question, offensive.”
Yikes. And is it just me, or is that phrasing — self-righteous and unnecessarily verbose — verging on the Olbermannian?
Ratigan has one other thing in common with Olbermann: Mangled cultural references made for no other reason than to show off, accompanied by a smug smile. Ratigan especially favors Shakespeare, and on Wednesday, he quoted Macbeth, suggesting that “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” is a guiding philosophy for Washington today. If only Ratigan — who stands up during filming, wandering unpredictably around his set — had remembered the end of that passage:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Keith Olbermann is not the worst person in the world