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Guest blog by ramjet:
The recent (3/25/09) Keith Olbermann/Howard Dean/Fascism segment on MSNBC's Countdown offered an embarrassing, and to many, humorous, display of Mr. Olbermann's deeply entrenched hypocrisy. Now that the schadenfreude has faded, an examination of the, so far overlooked, underlying cause of such frequent episodes is past due because the obvious hypocrisy is but a symptom of a pathology which inevitably produces Olbermann's stock in trade, his modus operandi.
Let's take a close look at the setting for last week's manifestation of Olbermann's chronic condition. The March 25th Countdown began with a two-part segment, the first entitled, "Grand Obstruction Party." Jonathan Alter joined Olbermann to discuss, among other things, a speech given by Gov. Bobby Jindal at a large Republican fund raiser and minority whip, Rep. Eric Cantor's appearance on CSPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the administration's budget.
Olbermann played a truncated clip from Washington Journal of a female caller:
CALLER, "But what really is scaring the rest of us, the other half of us, is the fascism.
I mean, the true fascism that is happening in this country today."
CSPAN HOST, "What do you mean by that, caller?"
CALLER, "The belligerent takeover of a one-party system."
That was followed by a truncated clip of Rep. Cantor responding:
Now, as far as the one-party government in here, I think what the public is doing they're finally waking up and everybody is realizing that checks and balances are part of the system and dividing government is something that is beneficial to a balanced debate and something that can produce a better outcome.
FACT: At no time did anyone call President Obama a fascist. Rep. Cantor never uttered the words, "fascism" or "fascist." The caller never even mentioned the President, by name or by office. Although the caller did express a fear of "fascism that is happening in this country today," it was not directed at or disrespectful of any individuals, ergo there was no compelling reason for Rep. Cantor to admonish the caller.
Now here's where the illness kicks in.
During the Olbermann/Alter conversation following the clips, this exchange took place:
ALTER: ...whether it's a good idea or a bad idea, at least it's something big that they can stand on rather than name-calling.
OLBERMANN: And where is the individual credibility here? Thirty-eight million Americans saw the president's news conference just on TV last night; it doesn't count radio; it doesn't count the Internet. People are supposed to take Eric Cantor seriously about finance or about fascism or about anything when instead of even watching it as it happened, he's at a Britney Spears concert? You know, oops, they did it again?"
For the record, Rep. Cantor attended the concert as part of a scheduled Republican congressional fund raiser.
The second part of the opening segment was titled, "Fear and loathing as GOP strategy;" co-starring the new CNBC hire, Howard Dean. Mr. Olbermann introduces this conversation with:
OLBERMANN: The Republicans slapped anybody who questioned President Bush with--if not using the word treason, essentially the elements that make up treason for the better part of his administration, and yet we are now seeing this--I don't know--the sky is falling reaction to everything that President Obama does. Is there something of a double standard here or am I being a little--a little oversensitive?
Not only is the above a blatant lie, it is also totally irrelevant to the actual words spoken by Rep. Cantor (R-VA) and Gov. Jindal, (R-LA) which Olbermann completely misrepresents and intentionally distorts! Remember now, no one has called anyone any names. The two Republicans highlighted by Mr. Olbermann, never, not once, used the words "fascist" or fascism." There is a double standard and it clearly applies to and is applied by Mr. Olbermann.
Howard Dean's response to the bizarre intro ended with:
DEAN: So, you know, the Republicans are going to have a long way to go here if they--if this is their first tactic. They've got to figure out how to reach the moderate middle. And you don't do it by calling people fascists and all this other kind of business.
Which was immediately followed by this exchange:
OLBERMANN: So, is Jon Alter right, every time something like this happens, you and the other leaders of the Democratic Party sit back and try to stifle a loud, braying laugh?
DEAN: Well, I don't laugh at the Republicans because they were pretty effective in winning elections for a long time. But I just scratch my head and think, you know, what are they--obviously, polling does not tell you to call the president of the United States a fascist. So, they must be doing something very peculiar at the RNC. And I'm not sure what it is. But I think their problem is that they're just in disarray.
Followed closely by (remember, now, the caller never mentioned Obama and never called anyone a fascist):
OLBERMANN: Instead of--when that call took place on C-SPAN today, with the minority whip, Mr. Cantor, listening as this caller attempted to demonize President Obama and his agenda and throw every ism she could think of except Nazism, I suppose. The congressman certainly by proxy embraced her attack.
Certainly! Embraced an attack that never occurred, by proxy no doubt!
The remainder of the segment consists of the beautifully prepared, deliciously presented dish of crow, served cold:
DEAN: If somebody called President Bush really dreadful names like that," and "but he is the president and we are going to be respectful of him.
OLBERMANN: Or if you have a case to call somebody a fascist, lay it out, define your terms... at least put some meat on the bones. And just don't throw the word out, right?
DEAN: Well, look--I mean, even in the darkest days of the Bush/Cheney administration, I don't think there was any reason to call George Bush a fascist nor do I think it's--I think it's patently ridiculous to call President Obama a fascist. ...if you are in politics and you aspire to be the leader of your party, you can't let that kind of stuff pass because it diminishes you and it diminishes the Republican Party [or your own network] when you don't correct it.
As Howard Dean is quickly given the hook, Keith, ever the trooper, adheres to the maxim, "The show must go on," by closing the segment with, "The real problem for the Republicans though is not Obama the fascist, socialist Martian..."
At first glance, this appears to be a simple case of partisan pox, targeting the loyal opposition with lies, misrepresentations, distortions, and false accusations based on false premises. However, a closer examination of the next segment, titled "How will the Obama team pass the budget?" reveals a more complex condition. The real target of the Olbermann Syndrome is any dissent or criticism or even mild disagreement with President Barack Obama or his policies, regardless of the parenthetical party letter or network acronym attached. Case in point, one Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-ND), Budget Committee Chairman.
OLBERMANN: In our fourth tonight: The main event--the reason for President Obama's big publicity push, the battle over the budget, which if it fails to pass Congress, takes with it change, hope and 'Yes, we can'. One of the main players, Senate Budget chairman, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, defending the Senate version of the budget, pointing out that it keeps Obama's big priorities alive. But as you'll notice, he says his budget makes them possible as opposed to say, makes them happen.
OLBERMANN: Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, declared the Senate and Obama budgets if not twins, then at least blood kin. But the White House, nevertheless, is now e-mailing supporters to get them to push Congress. Liberal progressive groups pursuing the same goals: Move On with the radio ad, Americans United for Change is paying $700,000 for an ad pressuring Congress to back Obama's budget. The ad does not name names but if the gentleman from North Dakota, Senator Conrad, had any question who that ad is targeting, it will air in 11 states and in major markets in those states such as Fargo and Bismarck.
Is it possible that the host of Countdown, MSNBC's "news hour," that pays tribute to Edward R. Murrow at the close of every episode is attempting to intimidate a powerful member of Congress, who is also a member of the President's own party, simply because the congressman prefers a slightly different version of the trillion dollar budget proposed by the administration? Has Mr. Olbermann read the two versions of the budget? Does Mr. Olbermann have a monopoly on all the facts? Does Mr. Olbermann even have a grasp of all the facts? It appears he believes he does. Someone once said, "The man who sees absolutes where men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a prophet or a quack."
Every examination and test after test leads to the conclusion that Mr. Olbermann suffers from an advanced stage of an acute case of The Olbermann Syndrome.
Any thorough examination of someone must include a study of the subjects history. Since the March 25th episode is most likely Howard Dean's final appearance on Countdown, a look at his very first appearance might prove enlightening. This episode from two and a half years ago focused primarily on a speech given by the then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld to the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention. Once again. Mr. Olbermann utilizes the tools of his trade, distortions, personal attacks and outright lies, to falsely accuse Sect. Rumsfeld of, as he self promotes, "...a special comment on his attack on your right to disagree":
OLBERMANN: And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion of that this country faces a new type of fascism as he was correct to remind us that a government that knew everything could get everything wrong. So too was he right when he said that. Though probably not in the way he thought he meant. This country faces a new type of fascism, indeed.
Now, it needs to be made clear that Mr. Rumsfeld never attacked anyone's right to disagree, to dissent, to protest, to speak out against, or any other forms of the precious speech specifically guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, placed at the very top the Bill of Rights. The Secretary, speaking to the group of war-time veterans, called upon them to speak out against lies and distortions, to correct the record, certainly not to squelch dissent or to attack "your right to disagree":
RUMSFELD: Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and about our country. America is not what's wrong with the world. (Applause.) One of the most important things the American Legion has done is not only to serve and assist and advocate, as you have done so superbly for so much of the past century, but also to educate and to speak the truth about our country and about the men and women in the military.
For this, Mr. Olbermann chooses to vilify his target. He also puts forward a passionate defense of the people's and the press' right to question and to disagree with the government, adding the folly of someone believing they have "a monopoly on all the facts." August 30, 2006, Countdown excerpts:
OLBERMANN: Back to Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks yesterday. Is there not something in them, though, that transcends political parties? Do we not need opposition and critics questioning policy, whoever's policy that is? I mean, during a Democratic administration, don't you want Republicans and media and citizens saying, Hold on, prove what you just said?
OLBERMANN: The man who sees absolutes where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a prophet or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet. We end the Countdown where we began, our No. 1 story with a special comment on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday....
Worse still, it credits those same transient occupants, our employees, with a total omniscience, a total omniscience which neither commonsense nor this administration's track record, at home or abroad, suggest they deserve it. Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom and not merely because it the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of his troops still fight this very evening in Iraq. It is also essential, because just every once in a while, it is right and the power to which it speaks is wrong.
Donald Rumsfeld, in concluding his speech, told the assembled group:
RUMSFELD: Your watchdog role is particularly important today in a war that is to a great extent fought in the media on a global stage, a role to not allow the distortions and myths be repeated without challenge so that at the least the second or third draft of history will be more accurate than the first quick allegations we see....
A soldier who recently volunteered for a second tour in Iraq captured the feeling of many of his peers. In an e-mail to some friends, he wrote the following, and I quote: I ask that you never take advantage of the liberties guaranteed by the shedding of free blood, never take for granted the freedoms granted by our Constitution. For those liberties would be merely ink on paper were it not for the sacrifice of generations of Americans who heard the call of duty and responded heart, mind and soul with 'Yes, I will.
Keith Olbermann chose to close his Special Comment in this manner:
OLBERMANN: Note, with hope in your heart, that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light and we can too. The confusion is about whether this secretary of defense and this administration are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek, the destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City so valiantly fought.
But back to today's omniscient ones, that about what Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this, this is a democracy, still, sometimes just barely and as such, all voices count, not just his.
Although I presumption use his sign off each night in feeble tribute, I have no utterly no claims to the words of the exemplary journalist, Edward R. Murrow. But never in the trial of 1,000 years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other polarities thought they and they alone knew everything and branded those who disagreed confused or immoral.
Thus forgive me for reading Murrow in full:
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty he said in 1954. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who fear to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. And so, goodnight and good luck.
Well said Mr. Murrow. Well read Mr. Olbermann. But, were you listening?
Much has changed in the two and a half years since these two men spoke to their varied audiences. Donald Rumsfeld resigned from his post as Secretary of Defense shortly after the 2006 election that brought a different party into the congressional majority. Rumsfeld was replaced by Bob Gates who continues to serve in the cabinet of the new administration.
The new administration is the product of the historic campaign, election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. The war in Iraq has changed significantly, as President Obama told the nation recently in his 60 Minutes interview, explaining his laughter:
OBAMA: There's gotta be a little gallows humor to (LAUGHS) get you through the day. You know, sometimes my team-- talks about the fact that if-- if you had said to us a year ago that--the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem--I don't think anybody would have believed it.
I can think of a few people who would have believed it, but Mr. Olbermann is most certainly not one of them. Perhaps a quick review is in order.
Olbermann, Aug 30, 2006, apparently being the prophet he spoke of earlier "...with a total omniscience, a total omniscience which neither commonsense nor this [reporter's] track record, [on television or on the web] suggest [he] deserves it."
Yes, two and a half years have brought much change; a new administration, a new congressional majority, a war in Iraq that can only be lost by intent, worldwide economic turmoil, and on and on and on. Yet, in spite of all this change, there remains a constant, the Olbermann Syndrome: a full blown case of hatred for anyone who voices any dissent against or disagreement with the current administration, hatred aimed at a rival with a more successful program on a competitor's more successful network, hatred spewed at anyone who disagrees with or criticizes the infected.
This is a contagious disease and it is spreading rapidly in certain communities. The specific contagion has been isolated; a particularly virulent strain of arrogant hatred.
Barring intervention and prolonged rehabilitation, the prognosis is not promising.
Guest-blogged by ramjet.