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PROGRESSIVES DESERVE SOMETHING BETTER! Colin Powell is now a “war hero”–on progressive cable, that is: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, MAY 9, 2009

Progressives deserve something better: Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get to see something even sillier.

Last night, the analysts involuntarily rose from their chairs when Keith Olbermann made the following remarks to his guest, Jonathan Alter. He was discussing Dick Cheney’s radio interview with North Dakota talker Scott Hennen.

At least he didn’t say it to our own Richard Wolffe. Our own Wolffe had already finished his nightly, 300-buck segment:

ALTER (5/8/09): [Republicans] could make some gains if Obama—if he were to somehow hit a really rocky period, they can make some gains. But if you’re talking about any long-term comeback where they really become a significant force in American politics again, they’re going to have to change, have to update their message. And the smart Republicans understand this.

OLBERMANN: Well, how does this then fit into that? Because there was this ugly note that Mr. Hennen left out of the transcript which refers to General Powell’s political remarks and Hennen said he was tired of Powell’s “tea-leaf reading,” and he said he wished Powell would “stay in his lane.” And I don`t know who talks that way about a decorated veteran who also served as secretary of state. But even worse, Mr. Cheney said nothing in response to that.

Is that ultimately another Republican problem here, a sort of cultural problem, this disdain—that you’re not a real American, even if you’re a war hero—disdain they have for anybody who disagrees with them?

Truly, there is no end to this program’s clowning when Olbermann complains about “disdain for anybody who disagrees with” the views of some group. But if you will, just marvel at what the fiery progressive said about Colin Powell. In Friday night’s script, Olbermann was deeply disturbed by Hennen’s outrageous remarks about Powell—remarks which were in fact quite mild. But omigod! We’ve reached the point where Powell must be treated as a “war hero”—if you’re a progressive, that is.

Let’s be clear: We’re not trying to stir up hatred against Powell. But we’re not sure if we’ve ever seen anyone describe him as a “war hero” (though we’ll assume that people have). Over the past dozen years, the designation was endlessly applied to John McCain. But Powell hasn’t typically been dubbed a war hero—until a cable star wanted to play us progressives, pretending that a few mild remarks by a conservative talker went past the point of what’s decent.

Our question: Was Powell a war hero when he threw together that gong-show report—the report he pimped at the UN, solidifying elite opinion about the need for war with Iraq? In Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack, the author painted a very unflattering picture of the way the “war hero” assembled that “iffy” presentation (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/25/05). But we don’t think we’ve ever seen Powell questioned about what Woodward wrote—and now, we’re told that he’s a “war hero.” We’re told this great hero can’t be criticized in even the mildest terms.

This show is a fraud, a gong-show, a joke, a scam apparently designed to sell its advertisers’ products to gullible young progressives. (To the demo. Earning millions for its host in the process.) Last night’s show was crammed with the usual nonsense, spin and selected information, from its start right through to the finish. (Does Margaret Carlson ever research the topic she’s booked to discuss? See below.) But on Countdown and the Maddow Show, we’ve now sat through a groaning progression in which Powell—and top aides to himself and Rice—are allowed to take free rides, as long as they’ll trash Rumsfeld and Cheney. Last night, it got so silly that Powell was transformed into an unimpeachable “war hero”—a man so great that he can’t be criticized, even in the mildest terms. It was “even worse” when Cheney didn’t rebuke that talker for his remarks, Olbermann clownishly said.

(By the way: Louis Caldera is a West Point graduate, a veteran, and a former secretary of the army. He was derided as a “moron” last night—by this same Powell-pimping host.)

This show is so dumb—so utterly fake—that it virtually squeaks at this point. Could the explanation for this puzzle possibly lie in the world of Bill Wolff? We’ll begin to explore that question next week, noting that Wolff has a good sense of humor. But progressives deserve something much better than the relentless stream of nonsense this big fake host pimps forth.

Does Margaret Carlson ever prepare: History’s biggest heist is unfolding, Naomi Klein declared Wednesday night. But so what? As usual, Keith put forward his standard string of predictable and/or silly topics:

Fifth story: Cheney and torture. (Cheney is bad!)
Fourth story: Pelosi and torture. (Pelosi is good!)
Third story: Why is Louis Caldera so stupid?
Second story: A CBS sports guy said something stupid.
First story: Why isn’t Sarah Palin (groan!) attending tonight’s big dinner?

As we’ve noted, this program discusses torture—and absolutely no other issue. After that, it’s nothing but fluff. You can loot the treasury all you want. This host doesn’t plan to notice.

But then, we get to Margaret Carlson, called on the show to earn 300 bucks (we assume she gets paid) by discussing big dumb-ass Caldera. Does this re-purposed Dem-trasher ever prepare? This was her first exchange on the one lonely topic she had agreed to discuss:

OLBERMANN: We’re joined now by Margaret Carlson, political columnist for Bloomberg News, Washington editor of The Week magazine. Margaret, good evening!

CARLSON: Good evening, Keith!

OLBERMANN: [Quoting Caldera] “I have concluded that the controversy surrounding the fly-over has made it impossible for me to effectively lead the military office." It`s not, I have concluded that my bone-headedness has made it impossible for me to effectively lead the White House military office. There’s no apology. There’s no acceptance of responsibility. Is there a distinction?

CARLSON: Well, there is. And no one in Washington ever says, “I’m—I apologize." They say, "If you were offended," or, "If you determine I did anything wrong." In other words, "If you`re so sensitive and such a wussy person that you found this wrong, then I’m going to say to you, you sensitive person, I’m sorry."

What’s interesting, if we were still in the Bush administration, there would have been no firing. It would have been, "Louis, what a heck of a job." Instead, there is responsibility at the top. He did something really horrendous. There’s no excuse, and he was let go.

And that is the amazing difference. I hope this continues, the difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

What a pair of ninnies!

No one in Washington ever says I apologize, Carlson skillfully recited. No one except Caldera, that is. Here’s what the gentleman said shortly after the ill-advised fly-over:

CALDERA (4/27/09): While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.

No wonder Caldera had to go! He said what no one ever says!

Someone may have whispered in Keith’s ear, or he may have known all along. At any rate, he directly said this to Carlson, as soon as her praise for Obama was finished: “To his credit, right after it happened, Caldera stepped up and took responsibility for it.” Moments later, Margaret thanked her host for the key information. “I’m glad you reminded me that Caldera did take responsibility,” she unapologetically said.

This program has spiraled down into a joke. Progressives—all Americans—deserve something much better. Last night, the first two topics were predictably staged; the last three topics were typically pointless. Klein says your future is being looted (again). One looter doesn’t much care.

Meanwhile, the question remains: Does Carlson ever research anything? True, she’s been re-purposed as a Democrat-lover—after years of performing her mocking impression of Candidate Gore on major CNN programs. (Bob Novak, producer of Capital Gang, was the fame-giver she had to please then.)

She’s been re-purposed for a new cable age. But her disdain—for you—lingers on.