Bring me an aspirin, Keith Olbermann: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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Election week on “Countdown”! I’ll give you three guesses as to whether it ended in elation or a splitting headache. Or perhaps it ended with the revelation just this morning on Politico that Olbermann made three $2,400 contributions in the recent election, violating both NBC policy and basic principles of journalism. One donation, to Arizona representative Raul Grijalva, took place on the same day Grijalva appeared on “Countdown.” The other donations went to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and another Arizona representative, Gabrielle Giffords. (You will definitely want to read this.) But meanwhile, here’s the week that was:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29: Tonight, a final, desperate interview with soon-to-lose Florida candidate for Senate, Kendrick Meek. Meek dropped the words “” at least twice into the conversation, which must have made Keith very angry since he cares so deeply when Republican candidates go on Fox and share their websites over and over to encourage fundraising. He must have been so mad! But since he is a paragon of professionalism, he didn’t show his anger at all.

Next a segment about how the economy is actually doing a lot better than many Americans suspect. Finally, some optimism around here! The economy is growing, though 61 percent of Americans think it’s shrinking! Much of the TARP money will be recovered! And federal taxes have actually gone down recently, Keith reports. These are interesting points!

Then he pivoted immediately to a conversation with Arianna Huffington, author of the totally reasonable book “Third World America,” about how America is a sinkhole of poverty and economic despair. I guess she regrets immigrating here from … Greece?

At the end of the interview, Huffington plugged her free shuttle bus from New York down to Washington, D.C., for the weekend’s “Restoring Sanity” rally. Keith must been so mad!

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31: Yes, SUNDAY. Oh, “Countdown,” why do you persecute me? Why would you add a special weekend show? Is this what we get now that Keith isnt busy with Sunday Night Football? There is no god.

Or at least that’s what I thought before this show began, when it came abundantly clear that this particular episode needs to exist. So much breaking news! So many fresh observations! And most of them happened during a riveting interview with Speaker-for-now Nancy Pelosi. Behold the brilliance:

“They [the Chamber of Commerce] want to buy these elections.”

Zing! You used that one last week on this show, Ms. Pelosi, but it’s such a good line, I can understand why!

“Elections are always about the future.”


“We’re going forward. We’re not about going backward. We’re fighting for the middle class. This election is also about our democracy.”

Oh, dear. The Pelosi-bot is broken! It’s shorting out! It’s spitting out cliches faster than we can process them! Call 911!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 1: On election eve, a grim conversation with Howard Fineman, in which Keith worried, “I’m not sure if my language was sufficiently apocalyptic to convey these late polls.” When Keith “The World Is Ending and I Really Mean It This Time” Olbermann is worried about his insufficiently apocalyptic language, you know the polls are bad.

A little later in his conversation with Fineman, he mused that “both houses of Congress can be won or lost depending on whether people who already favor the Democrats will take half an hour, an hour, two hours out of their day, whatever it is, to bother voting.”

You know what they say: If your election lasts more than two hours, you should consult with a doctor. Rimshot!

But seriously, two hours? It took me 15 minutes on Tuesday, and that included dealing with a line, an unfamiliar ballot, and the sterling competence of America’s poll workers.

Then, the most significant moment of the week to Keith’s 17 loyal fans: The END of “Worst Persons!” Seems Keith was guilted into suspending the nightly segment by Jon Stewart’s “Rally for Sanity.” He disputes the “false equivalence” between the partisans on MSNBC and Fox. (Confidential to Jon Stewart: You were right; Keith is wrong.) But Keith nonetheless thinks it’s time to put the segment aside. “Satire and whimsy have gradually gotten lost in some anger,” he said, which is the biggest understatement since Mel Gibson tried the same line.

But regardless, “Worst Persons” is gone! (I got into this in a little bit more depth in my review earlier this week of Keith’s new book “Pitchforks and Torches.”) Good riddance!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4: Election night! That means no traditional “Countdown,” just hours and hours and hours of Keith jockeying for air time with Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell and the rest of the crew. It was fun! It just wasnt aswhats the word … “goodas Fox’s coverage.

In related news, you may be interested in this survey by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, who stepped into my personal hell and watched every episode of “Countdown” for one week, along with every episode of Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Bykofsky was curious about which show featured a wider ideological variety of guests. The shocking result, when he tallied up both shows’ guests for the week:

“’The O’Reilly Factor’ welcomed 20 guests from the right, 11 from the left and seven who were neutral. Left and neutral voices combined almost equaled those from the right. ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ had 20 guests from the left, two neutral and not a single voice from the right. Zero voices of dissent.”

I’m shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3: The day after a rough night for Keith and pals, tonight’s show was mostly a post-mortem — hashing out the poll numbers, wondering aloud if Democrats were liberal enough, and a segment blaming the whole thing on the Chamber of Commerce. He also spent a lot of post-election time making fun of John Boehner for tearing up in public. Hahaha, only girls cry! Very progressive, Keith. Very cool.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 4: The rough week continues. Tonight, poor Keith had to break from an interview with long-suffering Howard Fineman to massage his own temples on air, saying he had to get rid of a headache immediately. (And this was before the whole world found out he made those campaign donations.) You know, Keith, some of us have a headache during every minute of every episode of your show, and we manage to keep it together. Surely we can expect the same silent misery from you.