After an entire day of bad news on Wall Street, the latest insanity in the political arena, driving the kids to the myriad of after school activities, and writing my memoir and this blog…I take a time out. A well deserved time out; an intelligent and thought provoking respite from the syncopated pandemonium that is my life. I switch on the home theater, flip over to FIOS Channel 103, and sit back for two hours of fantastic news analysis and discussion with Countdown With Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC at 8PM and 9 PM Eastern Standard Time.
I’ll admit it: I’m an out of the closet Liberal-Libertarian who absolutely MUST watch these two every night. These are two of the smartest people on television, both with wicked senses of humor and a unique (READ: REALISTIC) view of the day’s events. Bill O’Reilly and Hannity & Colmes? Please, I’d rather have all my teeth extracted without any painkillers by a student dentist from National Health in Great Britain. Campbell Brown and Larry King? I’m starting to like you Camp, especially after your grilling of clueless McCain lackey Tucker Knowsnobounds…but you’re just not quite there yet. And I don’t who looks more like the living cadaver of the year: Larry King or Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, but it’s pretty damned close. (One of these days, I’m fully expecting a headline to read “Larry King Dead” and it’s unintentional puny consequences will be just too priceless.) Plus Larry’s getting downright cranky in his old age! While I get my straight news from various sources (and I can NAME them all too!) on the Left and the Right, I do like my commentary to be left-leaning, and thoroughly entertaining.
I’ve been a fan of Keith Olbermann (may I call you Keith?) since his early days on ESPN where he and Dan Patrick would just have me in stitches. Keith’s intellectually funny in a way that Dennis Miller used to be before he was replaced by some sort of pod person, and he’s also pretty straight up funny as well. When Keith goes off on a rolling cascade of humor, there is no one better. (The best part for me is the laughs from the camera crew and staffers in the background; it very much reminds me of those Ernie Kovacs kinescopes I watched- and still do, thanks to DVD). On his “Worst Person’s In The World” segment last night, the #1 Worst Person was a National Review editor who had written about Sarah Palin’s debate performance like some sort of steamy short story in Playboy (which had to be read to be believed). As only Keith could, he read through that turgid prose inserting relatively “excitable” emotions as the writer might have intended them to be, then chided him, “If you’re going to go off and masturbate, at least don’t let America know about it!”. Good God, I was doubled over laughing.
Now Keith is also a serious journalist…make no mistake about that. He’s done dozens of outstanding interviews with political figures, asking pertinent and intelligent questions, always showing respect for the person he’s interviewing regardless of political persuasion. Where he truly shines is in his “Special Comment” section, which usually happens at least once every 4-6 weeks or more frequently as the need arises. It’s usually something that Keith is very passionate about and has to completely step out of the role he is on the screen at that moment and be a complete human being on display, most times showing outrage at the complete stupidity or utter lack of humanity someone or something has displayed. Hillary Clinton has been a target after her “RFK Moment” in the primaries. The GOP was a target after they completely aired an inappropriate so-called “9/11 Tribute” that featured footage that both psychiatrists said should never be aired, and networks agreed never to air again. The networks then got suckered in to airing it. In his most infamous “Special Comment”, Mr Olbermann lambasted President Bush for giving up his golf game when asked what sacrifices he made since the Iraq War began. It ended with Keith telling President Bush to “Shut the hell up”. When asked in a magazine article why he said that, he replied “Because I couldn’t say ‘shut the fuck up’ on National Television”.
Then we come to Rachel Maddow, who is quickly becoming a sensation in cable news, and rightly so. An Oxford scholar, she did her thesis on AIDS among the incarcerated in America’s jails. She has a full-time radio gig on liberal Air America every day just before she goes on with her own TV show at 9PM. She started as an MSNBC correspondent and began to fill-in for Keith Olbermann on Countdown when he ill or had a few days off. What the network found out was that people wouldn’t easily turn off Countdown when KO wasn’t there…she was holding the audience. What I found out was, I was doing the same. I liked her intelligent delivery, skillful writing, and rapier wit. So did the Network.
Her show has been on almost a month, and it’s beaten Larry King numerous times, and those two clowns on Fox Noise regularly. Not only does she hold on to the Countdown audience, she actually builds upon it. She is incredibly prepared, and took that sharp writing style and rapier wit with her to her own show. What I absolutely love about her interviewing style is that it’s non-confrontational, but she will not hesitate to point out (respectfully) when you’re not quite telling the truth (OK…LYING!). She will always ask an intelligent and thought provoking question, and an equally challenging follow-up. What’s more, she asks the questions that are NOT obvious; the ones that make you say, “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”.
While she may be a left-leaning lesbian (she’s open about it and is in a long term relationship with an artist), if you expected her analysis after the recent Presidential and VP Debates to be propaganda, you would have been dead wrong. Her analysis was as non-partisan as they get. Her debates (and sometime agreements!) with Pat Buchanan are a delight to watch because you have the Georgetown and Columbia educated Pat versus the Stanford and Oxford educated Rachel. Two outstanding minds going at it is always a pleasure to watch, especially in this day and age.
So, yes…these guys are my two hour oasis amid the talking heads of television, the politicians, my wife, my kids, my cats…these guys are my SANITY on some days. Every time I want to tear my hair out and scream at the TV because of something outrageous Johnny Boy and Sarah Baby did or said, they make me feel all better, somehow making me not feel alone in my disgust, outrage, or amazement at sheer stupidity. I even have my 11 year old daughter hooked on both of these guys, and she often stays up to watch them with me. Yeah, she’s only in 6th Grade, but she’s getting a great education in politics.
And outside of me, I can’t think of two better teachers.
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” – Edward R. Murrow