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The time between Christmas and New Year's is the least important rating period in television news. It's the week when substitutes rule the airwaves. There was no Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room, no Paula Zahn on Paula Zahn Tonight. Soledad O'Brien slept in, and Lou Dobbs was nowhere to be see. On Fox most every program on the schedule has had a substitute anchor today. Perennial also-ran A-Mess-NBC played Hardball without Chris Matthews, and Rita Cosby was not in the house. The reason for this carnival of stand-ins is simple: the programming bosses don't want to waste their big names during a week when viewership is low, only to have them take off for vacation when their ability to draw an audience is more important. That's why Bill O'Reilly is on vacation: he draws a Nielsen crowd, and they'd rather have him off now so he will be there when the ratings matter. This week is for the second team.
So it is that tonight's Countdown was hosted by Keith Olbermann.
Olby appears to have put The Great Leak Case on the back burner so he can flog the NSA spying story. It was the lead item on the Hour of Spin, and served as a convenient excuse for Keith to promote the Impeachment of The Great Satan. After citing "news" from such reliable sources as The Huffington Post, Olby reached out to his extensive cadre of irreproachable experts to bring in...John Dean! Keith's favorite convicted felon was given a platform to repeat his fringe hypothesis about all the crimes The Great Satan has committed and why he should be impeached. The interview with the ex-con ran a generous nine minutes, and no guest appeared to give an opposing point of view. After all, this is the Hour of Spin.
The "interview" was about as hard hitting as a softball game between the Society of Friends and the Little Sisters of the Poor. They compared Bush to Nixon, and raised the specter of the 1950s "Red Scare". Judge Dean ruled that the President "violated the law", then Keith went to the ex-con's book to recycle thirteen talking points that supposedly were grounds for impeachment. The entire segment was an archetypical example of one-sided partisan propaganda. Err America couldn't have done it better.
The #4 story concerned Anna Nicole Smith before the Supreme Court, and the Justice Department siding with her inheritance claim. KO yukked it up with another Puppet Theater installment, but nobody bothered to mention the pertinent legal fact that preserving federal court jurisdiction in these matters (which would favor Nicole) is important to the feds because of the implications for tax revenues.
Keith elevated his "worst person" bit to an entire story segment. In the #3 slot, he whined about John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly for daring to respond to Olby's attacks. In O'Reilly attack #49, Keith stated:
It is curious, isn't it, that he brands me a smear merchant, yet instead of trying to refute just one of the hateful things we've quoted him as saying or doing, he instead turns to the ratings.
Well, Mr Olbermann, maybe that's because when the hateful things you've said have been refuted, and more than once, you ignore the facts, never give the other side, and refuse to admit you're wrong. Ya think?
Then Olby turned to John Gibson, this time running the complete audio tape from Media Matters to "prove" that what he said is even "worse" in context than in the cut-down bit he ran. He again called it "intolerant", and suggested Gibson was "clearly the worst person of all time" and should resign, while reminding viewers again of how much he really liked the guy. [gag!]
#2 was the flap about Schwarzenegger Stadium in Graz, and #1 concerned the image of Mother Teresa in a bun. Meanwhile, there was today's "worst person" segment, where Olby once again had to twist the facts to fit his agenda:
People who usurped [Santa Claus's] identity, like the idiots who trotted a guy in a suit out on tv and insisted Santa is a Republican
What Keith didn't bother to note is that the "guy in a suit" who was being interviewed was Bob Phillips, who has been Santa for the White House and the Secret Service for years. He was talking about how he got the job, why he applied, and his experiences in meeting the President and other DC notables. The official White House Santa is a Republican. What a shocker!
On reflection, it appears the bosses at A-Mess-NBC aren't so dumb after all. Let this clown blather on the night after the night after Christmas (or, to mollify Olby, after Xmas), so they can put in a competent substitute when people are actually watching. Someone in Seacaucus sees Olby for what he really is.