Keith Olbermann


Keith Olbermann abruptly announced his departure from MSNBC tonight. Thus far, Olbermann and NBC executives are staying mum about why the host of MSNBC’s highest-rated program is leaving the cable channel, but I’m sure we’ll know the reason soon enough. (Of course, there is plenty of speculation, including the NBC Universal-Comcast merger made official earlier this week.)

Knowing Olbermann’s history of burning bridges with past employers, I’m willing to bet that he soon will start lobbing metaphorical bombs at NBC.

I used to watch Olbermann, mainly during the Bush administration when he seemed to be a voice of reason among television pundits. But over the years — not coincidentally as his popularity and ratings grew — Olbermann became increasingly full of himself, and it showed on his program. The last straw for me was his weekly “Fridays with Thurber” segment, which understandably began as a therapeutic homage to his late father, but soon grew into a months-long exercise in hubris. After all, did Olbermann really think anyone wasn’t changing the channel as soon as he started those segments?

As far as I’m concerned, Chris Matthews was (and still is) the only primetime host worth watching on MSNBC anymore. (Of course, I watch the cable news networks more for news and analysis than the hyperpartisan stuff they air during the evening hours.)

I’m curious what you think about Olbermann, his sudden departure from MSNBC, and the future of MSNBC’s primetime lineup. Please post your thoughts about any or all of those subjects.

Earlier this week I finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Literature (and purchased by me for 50 cents at a used book sale). It is an intriguing novel that raises questions most people don’t ponder at length (if at all). Perhaps the most obvious one is this: How would I (the reader) react if faced with eking out a miserable life in a post-apocalyptic world?

As somebody who gets easily annoyed by bad grammar (especially when it appears in print after allegedly being edited), I initially had to get past McCarthy’s writing style, which clashes loudly with much of what I learned in English classes and newsrooms. But I suppose bad grammar and lack of proper punctuation usage is all the rage during these text message-heavy, Twittering days, so perhaps I am a throwback in that respect.

Anyway, once I became accustomed to McCarthy’s writing style, I was drawn by his description of bleak, post-apocalyptic survival. The Road has a lot of potential in its next incarnation, a film adaptation starring Viggo Mortensen. The movie is tentatively scheduled for release in October.

* * *

I’ve begun reading my next book, Richard Wolffe’s Renegade: The Making of a President, about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Judging by the first chapter, it will be a good read for a political junkie like myself.

Wolffe, who covered Obama’s presidential campaign for Newsweek, probably is best known as a political analyst for MSNBC. When he appears on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Wolffe typically begins with the greeting, “Good evening, Keith,” delivered in a soothing British accent. (Well, at least I find British accents soothing.)

Wolffe’s usual greeting made me think about how he can personalize his books. Imagine being greeted by Wolffe when you crack open his book at night: “Good evening, Craig.” The book’s publisher (Crown, a subsidiary of Random House) could set up a way to order the personalized books through a Web site. Of course, the personalized books would cost a little more money, but they sure would be unique, eh?

If you ever held a woman’s hair up while she was vomiting, you know how Patti Blagojevich felt when she did that for fellow contestant Janice Dickinson on Monday’s episode of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”

Blagojevich also received a back massage, was awakened by on-site security removing a big snake from camp, bared her soul (again) to John Salley and later narrowly lost to Salley in a trivia trial to determine this week’s camp leader.

Blagojevich and Torrie Wilson earned back massages by beating Salley and Lou Diamond Phillips in a luxury trial called “Walk the Plank.” Blagojevich and Salley stood on planks as their teammates cranked handles to pull back their opponents’ planks. Wilson made Salley fall in the water, so the women got back massages.

Later, Blagojevich and Salley sat in the river as Blagojevich bared her soul again.

“The hardest part about it all was that it took me probably four or five days to get myself out of the constant — this weight that hangs over us that won’t go away for a long time, you know? It just sits there,” Blagojevich said. “And so after a few days it was kind of off a little bit. And that call (to husband Rod last week) just put it back on.”

Blagojevich explained, “My husband looked tired. That’s what got me, you know? He looked a little worn out and it makes me worry that something’s going on that I don’t know about.”

Perhaps she could see Rod’s worry about his impending appearance at last Saturday’s performance of “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” But I digress.

“When people got you down, they step on you, and when they see you stand up with strength, they back off,” Salley said.

“Well, that was part of the problem, the big decision whether to come here or not,” Blagojevich said. “Because the question is, are you aggravating the U.S. attorney (Patrick Fitzgerald) and then they indict me too, you know? You know it’s coming, in about a year it’s coming with the, you know, we’re going to indict your wife unless you come plead guilty. They’ll say it.

“It’s like, yeah, well go ahead and do it then. You gonna take, you know, make our kids orphans?” she concluded, dealing the sympathy card to her husband’s (and possibly her) potential jury pool.

Patti Blagojevich avoided indictment in early April, but there is an ongoing investigation into her real estate dealings with convicted businessman Tony Rezko. (She allegedly was paid commissions for some deals she did little work on.) Some legal observers suggested she wasn’t indicted so the young Blagojevich children wouldn’t potentially lose both parents to prison.

Anyway, back to the show: Salley later called Patti Blagojevich “my BFF in camp.” (For those who don’t know, BFF stands for “best friend forever” in textese — my word for the shortened language created by text messaging.)

Earlier in the show, Dickinson’s foul mouth prompted this ironic gem from Blagojevich: “She talks about it in a way that my own mother would be ashamed if I spoke that way.”

Of course, Patti Blagojevich was heard cursing in the background of FBI-wiretapped telephone conversations between her husband and associates, and her less-than-ladylike language is lampooned in Second City’s “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.”

Speaking of which, tonight MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann noted Rod Blagojevich’s Saturday appearance at the Second City spoof accordingly: “It’s not clear how much Blagojevich got for the appearance, but you better believe he was paid to play.”

Well said, Keith.

FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly was named one of the “Worst Persons in the World” on Monday’s edition of “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” This is not shocking or unexpected, as Olbermann often tweaks O’Reilly that way. However, this time stood out to me because of the unbelievable O’Reilly quote Olbermann used against his talk-show rival.

“Look,” O’Reilly said Friday, “by all accounts, the Bush administration defeated Al Qaeda, all right? Al Qaeda was marginalized, been downgraded as a threat to the world. So we won the terror war. We won the war in Iraq, at great cost, no doubt. No doubt. But we won.”

Just to make sure Olbermann hadn’t used an O’Reilly quote out of context, I found a FOX News transcript of Friday’s “O’Reilly Factor.” O’Reilly definitely credited the Bush administration with defeating Al Qaeda and winning the so-called “war on terror.”

O’Reilly uttered the quote during a segment called “Is Obama administration’s attack on Rush Limbaugh a distraction from more serious issues?” Ironically, the “conversation” between O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and former federal prosecutor John Flannery was all over the map and didn’t address the topic until the segment was halfway over. (Click here to read the transcript.)

O’Reilly made the comment in response to Flannery saying he applauds the Bush administration and Karl Rove for finally agreeing to let Rove testify before the House Judiciary Committee investigating whether there was corruption in the Justice Department during Bush’s presidency. It was an odd, off-topic response from O’Reilly.

As for the question posed in the segment’s title, O’Reilly and Coulter agreed that the Obama administration is attacking Limbaugh to distract the American people from more pressing issues like the economy. However, they didn’t expound on their answers, just agreeing on them before the segment ended.

In my opinion, of course the Limbaugh attacks are a distraction, but the reason they still have legs is because (1) they resonate with a large number of people and (2) a lot of Republicans are falling into the trap by trying to distance themselves from Limbaugh and then apologizing to him the next day. Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves for looking like they aren’t allowed to have an opinion contrary to what Limbaugh says. It will be interesting to see how long they carry on like this before they are able to change the subject in the news cycle.

Just when I thought Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was finally done making headlines, her pregnant daughter Bristol’s boyfriend’s mother got arrested and charged with six felony drug counts. The woman, Sherry Johnston, is the mother of Levi Johnston, who allegedly wants to marry Bristol, though apparently not before their baby is born. (The baby is due this weekend.)

While I admittedly am no fan of Sarah Palin, I think conservative columnist Peggy Noonan was onto something when she claimed the media is trying to “take Sarah Palin and make her, subliminally, the face of the Republican party.” Some liberal commentators, like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, have said they want Palin to run for president in 2012 because they believe she would lose easily. She probably would lose, not so much because she is incapable of bettering herself in the eyes of potential voters, but because recent political history shows those on losing presidential tickets tend to disappear from the limelight.

I may be proven wrong about that – perhaps she will resurface on the national level in 2016 – but regardless, can all the talk about Sarah Palin stop already? I realize the irony of me writing about Palin when I want to stop hearing about her, but this is the only time I posted anything here about the Alaska governor. In a comment on another WordPress blog last month, I proposed formation of SPA – Sarah Palin-aholics Anonymous. Now I repeat my call for SPA’s creation. Members are not to discuss Palin unless there is a worthy reason, such as her running for federal election again. Otherwise I don’t want to hear about Wasilla or anything else related to Palin.

I will try my best not to mention Palin again on this blog unless she is involved in something truly newsworthy on a national level. But if I fail, I promise to get back on the wagon with the help of fellow SPA members.

Now, if only Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would resign and go away, I could start a Blagoholics Anonymous club. Unfortunately, it sounds like he is going to be around at least until the Illinois legislature impeachs him.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested this morning on charges of political corruption that allegedly included attempts to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, get members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired and shake down a large number of individuals and firms for political favors.

“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said during a news conference this morning.

I’ve been watching and reading coverage of the arrests throughout the day, and I’m still shocked at the depth of the alleged corruption and the height of Blagojevich’s obvious arrogance and disrespect for the state of Illinois. The charges come two years after Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison on federal corruption charges. When Blagojevich first ran for governor in 2002, he promised to be a reformer who would clean up the state. It has been obvious for awhile that would never come to pass, but I don’t think any of us realized how corrupt Blagojevich was, even as it was common knowledge the governor was under investigation for several years.

Yet that knowledge didn’t stop Blagojevich from thumbing his nose at taxpayers and continuing his pay-to-play ways. In fact, Fitzgerald alleges the governor stepped up his criminal activities after learning a federal probe was focused on him and even continued discussing them over the telephone after a Chicago Tribune story revealed Blagojevich’s phones were tapped by the FBI.

I believe MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann spoke for all of us tonight when he asked rhetorically, “Is this guy the dumbest SOB on the planet, or the craziest?” My guess is Blagojevich is a little bit of both.

Either way, Blagojevich needs to resign immediately. If he doesn’t, he faces certain impeachment by the state legislature. Interestingly, it was just yesterday when the governor compared those wiretapping his phones to the criminals involved in the Watergate scandal. Blagojevich ought to be thinking about how the Watergate scandal ended with Richard Nixon resigning the presidency. In fact, Blagojevich should follow the example set by Nixon and resign to save himself and his constituents the embarrassment of impeachment proceedings.

I’m fairly certain Blagojevich will not resign, though. The brash governor has never put the interests of Illinois first, so why would he start doing the right thing now? I suppose it is possible Blagojevich will avoid resigning and impeachment by appointing himself to be Obama’s successor in the U.S. Senate. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the course of action Blagojevich takes.

Perhaps the worst damage done is the hit job Blagojevich finished on the reputation of Illinois politics. If he is convicted, four of the last eight Illinois governors will have served prison time. (George Ryan, Dan Walker and Otto Kerner are the others.)

Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, commented this morning on the state’s reputation for political corruption: “If it isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.”

Congratulations, Blago. You just played a big part in undoing the good will toward Chicago generated by Obama’s presidential win.