# Keith Olbermann

Weekend open thread: Olbermann axed edition

Big news doesn’t usually break on Friday night, but while I was enjoying a Chris Potter’s Underground concert in Des Moines, Keith Olbermann announced on the air that tonight would be the last broadcast for his “Countdown” program on MSNBC. It sounds like he was fired, because he “told viewers he had been informed ‘this was going to be the last edition’ of his show.”

I’m not an Olbermann fan and didn’t watch Countdown, but the show got relatively good ratings. It’s an ominous sign for a Democratic-leaning commentator to be fired right after the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. Lots of people were thinking the same thing:

The announcement triggered immediate speculation over whether the coming takeover of NBC Universal by Comcast had anything to do with his departure. NBC has denied that the move had anything to do with the impending takeover, New York Times reporter Bill Carter told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Olbermann signed a four-year extension on his contract in 2008, Carter said, which will prevent him from appearing on television. He can still do radio and online appearances, he added.

Olbermann was briefly suspended in November for donating to three Democratic candidates (including Gabrielle Giffords). That was a violation of MSNBC’s policy on commentators making political contributions. Somehow I doubt MSNBC will fire conservative host Joe Scarborough, who was also suspended for a couple of days over donations to Republican campaigns.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend?

Do you think Representative Steve King is happy Olbermann won’t be around to keep naming him “worst person in the world,” or will he miss that occasional bit of free publicity?

FEBRUARY 8 UPDATE: Olbermann landed at Al Gore’s Current TV network as chief news officer and host of a forthcoming prime-time show.

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The more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems

While liveblogging John McCain’s rally in Davenport on Saturday, John Deeth reported on the unusual invocation offered by Pastor Arnold Conrad. I admit that I didn’t pay much attention at the time, because I have read so many reports about right-wing preachers telling people that God wants them to vote for McCain, or even that true Christians are required to vote for McCain.

But Conrad wasn’t saying that. He was saying something much stranger. Here’s the video and partial transcript, courtesy of TPM TV:

I also would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god–whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah–that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.

I have no idea how the crowd received this invocation. It was all over the national media, prompting McCain’s campaign to distance itself with this statement:

“While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief.”

Why am I piling on when Keith Olbermann has named Pastor Conrad the “worst person in the world” for a day?

To me the issue is not whether Conrad is misusing his authority as a clergyman, because as I said, I am used to reading about that kind of behavior on the religious right. (My own rabbi won’t even reveal how he votes, let alone try to influence the congregation.)

Rather, I am trying to get my mind around the mentality that produced Conrad’s invocation.

Ben Craw of TPM TV called this “Mothra vs. Godzilla: Monotheistic Deity Throwdown,” which conveys some of the prayer’s absurdity.

But setting jokes aside for the moment, how presumptuous and even blasphemous is it for Conrad to assume the following?

1. He knows that God would prefer John McCain to become president.

2. He knows that God’s reputation is riding on the outcome of this election.

3. He fears that the all-powerful God might hesitate to use his power to make sure McCain wins the election.

4. He suspects that the omniscient God may not be aware that his reputation is riding on the outcome of this election.

5. He thinks God needs to be reminded that “all that happens between now and election day” will affect whether God’s name is sufficiently honored on earth.

Aren’t evangelical Christians supposed to believe that God is sovereign and we are not to second-guess His actions?

I remember reading an article years ago about the religious right’s impact on the 2004 election. I can’t find the link now, but a woman quoted in the piece said something like, “I am so glad that God sent us a strong leader in George Bush, because I was worried He would punish us with John Kerry.” I laughed at her apparent insight into God’s mind. She believed that God controlled the election, but in her mind, only a Bush victory would indicate that God preferred Bush. A Kerry victory would indicate that God had decided to punish America.

Pastor Conrad has taken this presumption to a new level. If Obama wins the election, it won’t be because God has consciously decided to let the “wrong” candidate win, it will be because God wasn’t sufficiently clued in about what’s at stake or didn’t care enough about His name being hallowed on earth.

Conrad is apparently in a better position to know what’s best for us and what’s best for God than God Himself.

Like I said, bizarre.

Share your thoughts and interpretations in the comments.

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For those following the debate on Obama and FISA

Did Barack Obama sell us out by endorsing the new version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and not showing up to support a filibuster of that bad bill last week?

Are too many Obama supporters in the netroots making up excuses to cover for him?

Or are the bloggers criticizing Obama being way too tough on a guy whose overriding concern has to be to get elected?

Is it right for some activists to say they no longer plan to volunteer for Obama’s campaign because he has failed to stand up for us on FISA?

Here are some links to good diaries exploring those questions.

Nathaniel Ament Stone is sure that Obama’s actions on FISA are better than they appear at first glance: Obama’s Outsmarted Us Again.

Big Tent Democrat argues that Obama is just like any politician and contrasts Obama’s previous statements on retroactive immunity for telecoms with his recent actions.

JedReport thinks the activists vowing not to lift a finger to help Obama (beyond voting for him) are making a big mistake: President McCain Just Got Elected, But That’s Okay.

Mike Lux seems to think the criticism of Obama over FISA is a waste of time, since “there is literally no acceptable way of holding a Democratic Presidential candidate accountable in the last few months before a general election.”

Chris Bowers counters, I Thought I Was Helping Obama. His point is:

First, we lefties are repeatedly told that it is necessary for Democrats to distance themselves from us in order to win elections. However, we are then we are told that we should be quiet in our criticism of Democrats, even though such criticism overtly distances Democrats from us.

I don’t get it. Aren’t we helping Democrats out by distancing them from us? Won’t Obama be helped by news stories about how he has angered the left? Won’t it make him look like he has Sista Soulhaj-ed us, or something? Why is our criticism a negative? Either Obama will be helped by distancing himself from the left, or he won’t. And, if he will be helped by distancing himself from the left, then our criticism should actually help him, especially when it starts to appear in news stories like these:

–National Journal: The Netroots Push Back

–Newsweek: Netroots Angry At Obama

–CBS: Netroots Feel Jilted By Obama Over FISA

Through our criticism of Obama, aren’t the netroots providing exactly the distance from lefties that we have always been told Democrats need to win? And, as such, aren’t we really helping Obama?

Attorney NCrissieB, who has experience with legal arguments surrounding the Fourth Amendment, offers A pragmatist’s view on FISA.

Wmtriallawyer, a vocal supporter of Obama this past year, has a warning: Barack, Take Note: FISA Demonstrates What’s Wrong with Washington. Key excerpt:

Sen. Obama, are you getting to see the problem now? As much as you talk about the partisan rancor that usually stalemates Washington (and I agree with you believe me), you’ve got to watch out for the so-called bipartisan compromises that actually serve noone but a few entrenched interests.

THIS has been the problem in Washington for years now.  The partisan fights occur over issues that actually matter and can benefit the people, and the bipartisan stuff compromises are over insidious stuff that benefits noone but the entrenched few.

Chris Bowers makes a strong case for taking Obama at his word instead of constructing theories about how he secretly agrees with FISA opponents, even as he fails to help stop the bill.

David Sirota notes that Obama has explicitly said, “You should always assume that when I cast a vote or make a statement it is because it is what I believe in.”

The exchange between Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is worth your time. Here is Greenwald’s original post, which contrasted Olbermann’s scathing commentary about President Bush’s support for FISA a few months ago with Olbermann’s cheering as Barack Obama goes along with the same bill.

Olbermann posted a response that shot to the top of the Daily Kos recommended list, even though he admitted not to have read Greenwald’s entire post.

Greenwald’s next shot was wonderful: Keith Olbermann’s reply and Obama’s secret plan to protect the rule of law.

Then Olbermann changes the subject with a crowd-pleasing diary about Grover Norquist saying Obama is “John Kerry with a tan.” Nice try!

The final vote on FISA will take place after the Senate’s July 4 recess, but efforts to remove the provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies appear unlikely to succeed.  

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Tapping Brokaw to replace Russert is a smart move

NBC announced today that Tom Brokaw will host the Sunday morning show “Meet the Press” at least through the November election. That was a very shrewd decision.

A former longtime evening news anchor, Brokaw has more than enough stature for the job.

Equally important, Brokaw can help the network repair some of the damage that was done by MSNBC commentators who were biased against Hillary Clinton during the primaries.

Here’s Brokaw bluntly criticizing the way some of his colleagues covered the race:

“It was inappropriate, for journalists especially, to try to cut the process short,” NBC News’ anchor emeritus, Tom Brokaw, told The Associated Press. “It was an appropriate issue for people to report on, in context, but there was an awful lot of commentary disguised as reporting that gave the impression that people were trying to shove her out of the race.”

Brokaw’s old-school attitude often put him at odds with Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann when he joined them for primary night coverage on MSNBC this year. One example was last Tuesday. Brokaw was talking about the contrasts between McCain and Obama when Olbermann interjected about “a third one trying to shoehorn her way” into the coverage.

“Well, I think that’s unfair, Keith,” Brokaw replied. “I don’t think she shoehorned her way in. When you look at the states that she won and the popular vote that she piled up, and the number of delegates that she has on her side, she’s got real bargaining power in all of this.”

Brokaw called all the discussion about Clinton’s exit a product of “too much time and too little imagination.”

This recent profile of “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann in the New Yorker quotes Brokaw several times as having doubts about the commentary on MSNBC. This passage was particularly telling:

Brokaw says he sometimes feels that he has been cast in the role of hall monitor at NBC News; if so, his charges have kept him busy. The day after the New Hampshire primary, Matthews asserted that Hillary Clinton owed her election as senator to public sympathy for her in light of her husband’s sexual peccadilloes. “It was completely out of line,” Brokaw says. “And Keith took it to another level” with his “shut the hell up” commentary.

In March, after Geraldine Ferraro said that Obama would not be where he is if he were not a black man, Olbermann issued a Special Comment that was aimed expressly at Clinton’s advisers (and their countenancing of Ferraro’s “cheap, ignorant, vile racism”) but that struck Clinton nonetheless. “Voluntarily or inadvertently,” Olbermann said, addressing Clinton directly, “you are still awash in this filth.”

Olbermann and Chris Matthews were way out of line with their Hillary-bashing this spring. Because their comments were not isolated incidents, they left a deeper taint on the network than NBC correspondent David Shuster’s offhand remark that the Clinton campaign “pimped out” Chelsea Clinton, which got him suspended.

The New Yorker profile of Olbermann makes clear that network executives were uncomfortable with how antagonistic coverage of Hillary became on “Countdown.”

Picking Brokaw to host “Meet the Press” signals that NBC is not going to let that very influential program tilt strongly in one direction during the general election campaign.

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Keith Olbermann needs to get a clue

Katie Couric stated the obvious, which is that Hillary Clinton had to contend with a lot of sexist media coverage, some of it coming from NBC reporters and commentators.

For that Keith Olbermann calls Couric “the worst person in the world.”

I’ve written before about why Hillary lost the Democratic nomination, and I don’t think sexism was the main reason.

But you have to be blind and deaf not to acknowledge that a lot of sexist coverage and commentary was directed at her, and MSNBC personalities were among the worst offenders:

For a thoughtful analysis of how sexism affected Clinton’s campaign, read this essay by Trapper John.

John Edwards on Countdown: End Outsourcing of Military

John Edwards was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night, and he called for an end to the outsourcing of military work to contractors like Blackwater.

The answer to this is to get American troops out of Iraq, which is why I'm committed to getting our combat troops out of Iraq, stopping combat missions, doing it the right way. But these things that are going on with Blackwater, they worry all Americans. I hear it everywhere I go. You know, people wonder, first of all, why a company whose executives gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bush and to Republicans are getting these no bid contracts with hundreds of millions of dollars. There's something wrong with this picture.

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