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Let’s Play Olbermann Oddball!

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KeithOlbermann's secret
Image credit – ripped from Yikes!

Friday on the MSNBC show Countdown Obama Infomercial with Keith Olbermann, Keith apparently had to scramble back into the studio for a “Breaking News” story – An interview with Barack Obama responding to widespread coverage of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory sermons. The interview video is linked here.

Barack Obama responded directly to Olbermann’s questions with thoughtful, intelligent answers, as we’ve come to expect from the Senator. More interesting was the context of the interview and the analysis between Keith Olbermann and Jonathan Alter before and after.

Now, as I’ve said in comments to Justin’s post, I think the hyperbolic rhetoric in the coverage of both Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons and Geraldine Ferraro’s comments were way overblown by the media and bloggers. The amusing context for this interview, was watching Keith Olbermann hoisted on his own petard. Two days before, Olbermann was fanning the flames with his “Special Comment” to and about Hillary Clinton, saying “Clinton’s tepid response to Ferraro is shameful…You must reject and denounce Geraldine Ferraro.” Geraldine Ferraro is a public figure with a personal relationship to Clinton, and a supporter who was peripherally associated with her campaign. Jeremiah Wright is a public figure with a personal relationship to Obama, and a supporter who was peripherally associated with his campaign. Hence the need for a hastily arranged “Breaking News” interview with Obama to follow up the anti-Clinton screed.

Olbermann had quite a different speaking tone when asking Obama whether he would denounce Reverend Wright, as when he was demanding that Clinton denounce Ferraro. Obama replies, quite reasonably, that he will denounce the words but not the man. The trademark Olbermann high dudgeon is noticeably absent. Absent also is the finger wagging insistence that Obama “must reject and denounce Reverend Wright”. Why the difference? Well… Keith was addressing a male candidate about a male’s offensive comments on Friday, but was addressing a female candidate about a female’s offensive comments on Wednesday. Was that the reason? You tell me.

Then Olbermann and Jonathan Alter (who recently wrote two columns advising Clinton to quit the campaign) sheepishly analyze what has just transpired. Maybe it is my imagination, but when I watch this sequence I see two embarrassed journalists fully cognizant of the discrepancy in the coverage of these two candidates and perhaps, finally recognizing that Obama is a politician just like Clinton – different only in degree and not in kind. If these two are not embarrassed about the difference in the way they have been covering Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – they should be. Particularly Olbermann.

Compare and contrast that Friday interview with Wednesday’s “Special Comment”, excerpted here:

“To Sen. Clinton’s supporters, to her admirers, to her friends for whom she is first choice, and to her friends for whom she is second choice, she is still letting herself be perceived as standing next to, and standing by, racial divisiveness and blindness… Somebody tells her that simply disagreeing with and rejecting the remarks is sufficient. And that she should then call them “regrettable,” a word that should make any Democrat retch And that she should then try to twist them, first into some pox-on-both-your-houses plea to “stick to the issues,” and then to let her campaign manager try to bend them beyond all recognition, into Sen. Obama’s fault. And thus these advisers give Congresswoman Ferraro nearly a week in which to send Sen. Clinton’s campaign back into the vocabulary … of David Duke.”

There is much that was truly odd about this particular “Special Comment”, but nothing was stranger than Olbermann’s peculiar choice to attack “Clinton’s advisers” for Hillary Clinton’s statements. Just think about this for a minute. Hillary Clinton makes statements about Obama, or his staff and supporters, or her own staff and supporters, or the campaign in general or whatever. Olbermann becomes incensed by the statements as only Keith Olbermann can get, and then he attacks “Clinton’s advisers” for the statements she has made. Why the advisers? Why not Clinton? What is the rationale behind that? I can think of only three reasons why Keith Olbermann would choose to formulate his very carefully and precisely worded “Special Comment” in that peculiar way.

1) Olbermann believes Hillary Clinton is too stupid or incompetent to think for herself, speak for herself, direct her own campaign, or formulate her own opinions. – or –
2) Olberman thinks women in general are incapable of formulating their own opinons, positions, and/or direct their campaign without the help of a (presumably male) staff. – or –
3) Olbermann is afraid to confront Hillary Clinton directly and instead chooses to make a dishonest and disingenuous indirect attack on her “advisers” for her statements and her positions.

I cannot think of another reason to structure his presentation like this. If anyone else has a plausible reason, I’m all ears. Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I was inspired to create my first ever DWSUWF poll which you can find on the left sidebar of my blog, should you wish to weigh in on why Olbermann delivered his “Special Attack” on Hillary Clinton by attacking her advisers. Does he think she is stupid?; Is he a sexist?; – or – Is he just afraid of Hillary? You decide.

There was another interesting bit of rhetorical dissembling in the conversation between Olbermann and Eugene Robinson in the same show:

OLBERMANN: “… Does this end this? Or does it just sort of freeze it in a kind of nebulous zone that a lot of events in the Clinton campaign have been mired, the sort of nasty stuff they didn‘t say but somebody said for them?”
ROBINSON: “That does seem to have been the pattern, doesn‘t it? You know, I have a feeling this could go on for a few more days and hopes it faded out, but who knows. I mean, where do you start with this story, Keith?You know, first of all, Geraldine Ferraro says, you know, she‘s been called a racist and Bill Clinton was called a racist. Nobody calls her a racist. Nobody called Bill Clinton a racist.What was said is that what she‘s—you know, the sentiments she expressed, what she said was arguably a racist thing to say. But that‘s about action, that‘s about words. It‘s not about her essence or her being.”

You got that? Keith and Eugene are not calling Geraldine Ferarro a racist. Not at all. They are only explaining that Geraldine Ferraro says racist things. That does not make her a racist. Truly, an almost Clintonesque parsing of the language.

Fair enough. Permit me to clarify, so there is no confusion about the point of this post. Keith Olbermann is not an Obama cheerleader and a sexist pig.

He just talks like one.

X-post excerpted from and continued at Divided We Stand United We Fall