Erik Larson

Nov 10, 2008

Keith Olbermann

… is about as far from an objective journalist as you can find in mainstream media. If an alien, completely unbiased, would observe the press long enough to understand… I’m sure he’d (she’d, it’d) classify Olbermann and Sean Hannity together. Two non-objective people talking at us, if we care to listen.

Case in point: Olbermann’s bizarre declamation of a Sept. 11 tribute during the Republican National Convention. To the extent that I understand his decidedly non-journalistic dramatism, I guess the implication he’d like us to draw is that the Republicans are wrong-headed and somehow morally stained, in a way that disqualifies them from talking about events such as Sept. 11; certainly from paying any tribute to this event during their convention. If this isn’t partisan whacky from the so-called press… what is? No wonder MSNBC yanked him from journalistic duties (rumours that Tom Brokaw had some part in this). Anyway, as I said, it’s Hannity, MSNBC style. For those viewers out there who treat politics like a sports contest (may my side win, no matter what!), I’m sure Olbermann delivers.

So, what gave rise to this whole just before bed tirade is my unfortunate viewing tonight of a Olbermann’s latest Countdown. Consistently, conspicuously, it’s always “Mr. Bush” on this episode, never “President” Bush (even if he is?). So the language is, over and over, “President-elect Obama”, meeting with “Mr. Bush”. Excuse me, but isn’t “Mr. Bush” our current President ? And, if so, isn’t “President Bush” the proper nomenclature? Apparently not. But to put a happy face on things, I’m sure President-elect Obama had a fine time with this Mr. Bush fellow (I hope Mr. Bush didn’t talk too long, or waste President-elect Obam’s time); perhaps they discussed how Mr. Bush could some day run for high office himself.

Okay, point made. Here’s the deal. I’ve always downgraded hard-core partisan types, on the right or left. I suspect the 2000 presidential elections debacle still rankles with Olbermann types (those partisan talking heads, I mean). But there’s nothing more we can ever do than let the process—judicial, local, Supreme—take its course. President Bush was elected by this American process. And he’s not therefore illegitimate, unless so too was the process itself, and its final arbiter. Perhaps there were flaws, in the details, or perhaps not. But after the Supreme Court ended our hopes or fulfilled them, what actions were left to us? A new revolution? Very American. But mostly we’re not much into real revolution these days; we prefer instead to grouse endlessly. And at any rate we don’t have time for it. For Mr. Olbermann, for instance, it’s got to be tricky to manage much more than partisan bickering when hosting a lucrative hate-Bush segment on MSNBC. (A point not lost on me, being a Capitalist.)

To whit, we all get behind our President-elects after due process; President-elect Obama’s case was much easier, winning the popular and electoral vote. But in a much closer and frustrating election, so too was our current President sworn in by due process. Sorry that many didn’t like the outcome. It’s part of American politics that, every four years, predictably about half of the voting public doesn’t either. So get over it. We can disagree without disrespect. It’s President Bush, Mr. Olbermann. That’s America.