Keith Olbermann, champion fundraiser: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1: On September 22, Keith Olbermann flew into his 782nd rage about Fox News, specifically about “what we all know, but Fox doesn‘t want anyone to confirm: Their supposed news network constitutes a fundraising arm of the Republican Party.” This particular apoplexy was prompted by Sharron Angle’s shocking revelation that she considers Fox a “friendly” press outlet.

MSNBC, of course, is different. It’s no fundraising arm for anyone, right? Well, partly true. It doesn’t have enough viewers to be an effective fundraising arm for anyone. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try. Tonight, nine days after Olbermann’s outrage over Fox, his own guest, Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand said the following on air in a discussion about the New York race for governor:

“Andrew Cuomo is a good, sincere, honest guy, and we ought to elect him the next governor of this great state.”

Olbermann let this stand completely unchallenged, moving on to a question about the governor’s race in California. Sounds pretty “friendly” to me.

Later, Olbermann hilariously tried to take credit for the resignation of Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff by connecting it to an interview given to Rolling Stone by a deputy press secretary. Even if you enjoy watching Keith Olbermann humiliate himself, this question posed to frequent guest Richard Wolffe is almost too much:

“Did this have anything to do with the president‘s criticism of Fox News or the kind words that Bill Burton had for me and Rachel on Monday? Is there a tonal change or is all of it temporal coincidence?”

Oh dear god in heaven, Keith, you ridiculous narcissist. Rahm Emanuel did not step down because Bill Burton said something nice about you. Unless you believe that the Chicago election cycle is about you. Which you might.

Then, fittingly for a boring show that never breaks news, Olbermann read a short story called “The Dog That Bit People” — not quite “Dog Bites Man,” but close enough.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 4: Tonight’s “Countdown” included a segment about Sharron Angle, an interview with Howard Fineman, and Glenn Beck was one of the Worst People in the World.

Quiz: Did I actually watch tonight’s show, or did I just guess, knowing there is a 95 percent chance on any given night that the above would be true?

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5: Tonight, one of the strangest segments I’ve never seen on “Countdown” — and I’ve seen Olbermann interview both his own hand and a character named Aqua Buddha, so that’s really saying something.

What could top that? A straight-faced interview with a clown and a witch on the subject of Christine O’Donnell. To be exact, a straight-faced interview with comedian “Angry Bob” dressed up as a clown, and Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto dressed up as a witch. Yes, he’s still doing Christine O’Donnell witch jokes. No, they’re not funny yet. And don’t even ask about the clown.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6: Meanwhile, back in the real world, the New York Times reported today that head honchos at are mulling a name change. Why? “The brand of, a strictly objective news Web site, is widely confused with MSNBC.” I can’t imagine why that’s a problem, can you?

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7: Tonight Olbermann welcomed former auto czar Steven Rattner as a guest, and the two of them crowed about the great success of the Cash for Clunkers program that gave people a check for trading in their old car for a newer, energy-efficient one. Never mind that the program spent millions just to bump auto sales up a few months instead of creating more new sales overall, and that is also raised used car prices for the people who can’t, you know, afford to buy brand-new cars. I said NEVER MIND. The important thing is alliteration, and most experts agree that the phrase “cash for clunkers” is alliterative. Your tax dollars at work! Er, your salary at service.

Olbermann then excoriated Lou Dobbs in the Worst Person in the World segment, based on a report in the Nation that anti-immigration crusader and former CNN host employed illegal laborers. Olbermann accused Dobbs of “hiding behind his daughter’s skirts,” and read Dobbs’s official statement on the matter in a weird high-pitched mumbling voice. I guess it was supposed to be an impression, but it was truly bizarre; Olbermann later tweeted that it was based on British actor Wilfrid Lawson’s performance in the 1966 movie “The Wrong Box,” which somehow makes the whole thing more awful.

An hour later on MSNBC, Olbermann’s former guest host Lawrence O’Donnell tried something different: His new show, “The Last Word,” hosted a spirited debate between Dobbs and the writer for the Nation who exposed him. In other words, instead of reading a press release in the voice of a character in a mid-1960s film flop, O’Donnell actually called up the principles and engaged them in an interesting, news-furthering conversation. It sounds crazy, but this just might be the future.