Keith Olbermann to Barack Obama: More outrage! We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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FRIDAY, MAY 28: Midway into tonight’s show, guest Thomas Frank of the Wall Street Journal asked, “How are you today?” Olbermann answered with startling honesty: “All right, and as usual in a state of confusion.”

That pretty much set the tone for the week.

If we know one thing about Keith Olbermann, it’s that he values anger over almost every other emotion. And so tonight, he presented an indignant Comment segment about President Obama’s insufficient levels of visible rage. Of course, if Obama spent as much energy being noisily angry as Olbermann does, he’d have about 45 minutes a week left to govern. But no matter: Olbermann wants to see his president’s pain. “We would, I think, like a little of our anger articulated, especially by the least angry man in American politics,” blustered the most angry man in American punditry. “We would like to hear a little more about Mr. Salazar’s idea of the boot on B.P.’s neck.”

As the Atlantic’s Clive Cook wrote a few days later, “Apparently it is a great idea to elect a president who is calm in a crisis, except when there’s a crisis. Then what you need is somebody to lead the nation in panic.”

Other than this rant, however, the show was nothing special. Guest Lawrence O’Donnell accused BP of homicide, and Olbermann said Senate candidate Rand Paul is a fan of “freelance slavery.” Ho, hum. The hour ended with a pious, somber obituary for Gary Coleman, “one of this news hour’s first and most gracious guests.” I hate it when Keith tries to get all sensitive. It gives me the willies.

TUESDAY, JUNE 1: After a long Memorial Day weekend, Olbermann returned just as angry, and ready to keep making the exact same indignant points he’s been making last week. Can you picture him at a barbecue? Does the man ever take a deep breath and relax? Have a hot dog, Keith. You’ll feel better.

In the honorable tradition of kicking a colleague when they’re on their way out the door, Olbermann spent several minutes excoriating exiting CNN anchor Campbell Brown, giving her the night’s bronze medal for Worst Person in the World. Brown stepped down from her show a few weeks ago, issuing what was generally seen as a tasteful resignation letter that openly admitted her ratings problems: “The simple fact is that not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that CNN can try something else,” she wrote.

Olbermann, ever the class act, couldn’t let her go un-mocked.

His problem is that Brown has framed herself and CNN as producing real news, in contrast to the opinion shows put out by her 8 p.m. competitors Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly. “People are drawn to the echo chamber, and they want to have their opinions validated more often than they want to have their opinions challenged,” she explained to the L.A. Times. Calling Brown “the lame duck anchor over at CNN,” Olbermann fulminated that, ok, first of all, he and O’Reilly are nothing alike. Turns out Olbermann views “Countdown” not as part of an echo chamber, but as the kind of show “when you stick your neck out and you tell the echo chamber it’s wrong.”

Keith, here is a hint: When you interview the same five or six people over and over and over, and they all agree with you 100 percent of the time, that’s an Acme-certified grade-A echo chamber. To paraphrase the horror movie cliche: The show is coming from inside the echo chamber.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2: Tonight, Olbermann mocked George W. Bush’s new Facebook page, saying Bush “has apparently used the Google and found out about this new excited web-based application called Facebook.” Doesn’t it seem like only last year a technologically confused Keith Olbermann named Twitter the Worst Person in the World?
And now, your out-of-context Keith Olbermann quote of the week: “It’s Iggy, the flying 2,600-pound 40-foot-long iguana. As Little Orphan Annie might say, it’s a hard knock life.”

THURSDAY, JUNE 3: Just before accusing President Bush of war crimes tonight (another “ho hum” moment), Olbermann spent a long segment discussing the possibility of using a nuclear device to stop the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. He was outraged at the very thought of it!

Meanwhile, a headline on Thursday’s front page of the New York Times blared “Nuclear Option on the Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says.”

But that inconvenient refutation is not nearly as fun as speculating about a “nuclear oil hurricane” and “radioactive tar balls in your swimming pool” with cheerfully game guest Michio Kaku. Come to think of it, Keith was weirdly giddy about this, too. It’s almost as if he knew the whole segment was total BS. No word on whether he’s caught on about the full seven years of the show’s existence.

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