Keith Olbermann’s ‘personal responsibility’ for Tucson: We watch, because we’re paid to

Ruth Graham Contributor
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After a few days’ absence thanks to either bad oysters or the stomach flu, Keith Olbermann returned to “Countdown” this week with scores to settle, names to name and questionable accomplishments to brag about. Let’s review!

MONDAY, JANUARY 17: It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which presents with Olbermann with an excellent opportunity to discuss his own long history of oppression. He is outraged that, according to his own count, he and John McCain are the only two public figures who have assumed any kind of personal responsibility for the shooting in Tucson, despite the fact that there’s no evidence  the shooting was influenced by political rhetoric. Still, everyone in the political media scene agrees, the story in Tucson was about politics and media. So why hasn’t everyone apologized yet? He called out several bloggers by name, which seems to indicate Keith will not rest until literally everyone in the world falls into line — if anyone on the entire internet resists, it’s not good enough.

“Only one individual assumed any personal responsibility for any of it,” Olbermann fumed in a Special Comment. “It’s me and John McCain. I assume he’s like me now, not sure whether to laugh, cry or be proud of that.”

I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’re proud, Keith.

Tonight’s show also included the following exchange, presented without comment:

Howard Dean: Nancy Pelosi is looking pretty good right now.

Olbermann: Well, she does anyway, but that’s another story.

Between this and last week’s on-air revelation that bad oysters were roiling his stomach, I have  gotten way too many glimpses deep into the inner workings of Keith Olbermann lately.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 18: Tonight, more rhetorical indignation over rhetoric. Did you know that in 1994, John Bolton quipped that the U.N. could lose its top 10 floors and no one would notice? Clearly he was calling for a bombing, rather that making a point about bureaucratic bloat.

By the way, as I was typing this paragraph a screen popped up on my computer that asked me to “reload.” Is this a call to violence?

In a show with other segments on the House vote to repeal health-care reform and Joe Lieberman’s retirement, Olbermann chose to make the top story about the addictive video game Angry Birds. Here’s how Keith opened the segment: “Some of the staff here are obsessed with a video game called Angry Birds. Frankly, I don’t have any time for video games. As a down-time activity, I don’t see the thrill of hurling tiny birds through the air. In fact, when it comes to video games, I find it best to just ignore them.” Great intro, Keith! As usual, you sound like a really fun, normal guy, and I can’t see why you have a reputation as a joyless, out-of-touch curmudgeon.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19: Tonight, Olbermann bid farewell to Joe Lieberman, calling him a “delusional liar.” Adios, Joe.

Meanwhile, the show’s “Oddball” roundup of weird news included the wacky story of a clerk in a South Carolina convenience store who defended himself during a robbery by brandishing a large samurai sword. Olbermann played a surveillance video of the clerk chasing the robber out of the store, gleefully reporting that the clerk later used the sword to club the robber repeatedly.

Just to be clear, giggling over a tape of one guy brandishing a samurai sword chasing another guy who claimed to have a gun is NOT glorifying or making light of violence. And though it seems like only a few days ago that Olbermann was chastising Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, who said he wished that there had been a responsible person with a gun on the scene in Tucson, this is completely different. Franks was recklessly calling for citizens use weapons to defend themselves against criminals. That’s abhorrent. Olbermann, by contrast, was pointing out that when citizens use weapons to defend themselves against criminals, it often leads to hilarious video footage.

Tonight’s No. 1 story was about a new study that found college students aren’t learning critical thinking or writing skills in school. I’ll give you three guesses about whether or not Olbermann mentioned Cornell within the first 15 seconds. You win! In fact, and I swear I’m not making this up, he told a story about how his freshman-year Shakespeare class was too easy for him. This is why you don’t get invited to parties, Keith.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 20: Tonight’s show included a long monologue on the notion of changing the filibuster system in the Senate — it’s fatally flawed, according to Olbermann. I have a theory: Maybe the reason “Countdown” is always so boring and interminable is that Olbermann has been making a years-long meta-point about the filibuster itself. The alternative explanation isn’t nearly as flattering.