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OLBERMANN GETS IT (MASSIVELY) RIGHT! Openly trashing Limbaugh’s ethics, Olbermann—at last—got it right: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 2005

OLBERMANN GETS IT (MASSIVELY) RIGHT: We’ll admit—we never thought we’d see it. For years, we’ve marveled as major mainstream and liberal journalists refuse to go after the Rush-Sean types—as they refuse to notice the way these people have made a travesty of our public discourse. Rush and Sean and the like are ripe targets—and the public deserves to be trold about the extent of their clowning and lying. (Beyond that lie the “mainstream” clowns, like Hardball’s Chris Matthews.) But mainstream pundits have refused to discuss it—until Keith Olbermann openly mocked Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday night’s Countdown:
OLBERMANN (8/17/05): Time for Countdown`s list of today`s three nominees for the title of “Worst Person in the World.” Nominated at the bronze level: In coastal Scotland, police report that some of them while away the late summer afternoons by going to the cliffs and throwing rocks at the people who live and drive below. A policeman warned them, “Playing near cliffs is dangerous, boys.” Why did you tell them, sir?

Also, the fine folks at Austin Community College in Texas. Carl Basham said he was denied the state residence discount for tuition. He has to pay $2,600 a semester instead of $500 because they say he spent too much time living out of state. Well it`s true, Carl has been away, serving, he says, two tours in Iraq.

But the winner, it`s the irrepressible Rush Limbaugh. On the radio, he said quote, "Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There`s nothing about it that`s real." I guess she made up that dead son in Iraq business! He also referred to her supporters as dope-smoking FM types. I guess the painkillers wipe out your memory along with your ethics. Rush Limbaugh, today`s “Worst Person in the World!

Omigod! Openly referencing Limbaugh’s failed ethics, Olbermann mocked him as the “Worst Person in the World.” And last night, the open mockery (and debunking) of Limbaugh continued, with Brent Bozell thrown in for good measure. (Transcript still not available. Eventually, it will be posted here.)

For our money, Limbaugh’s cited offenses are rather minor compared to examples of previous clowning. But finally! Finally, a major journalist stood up in public and called Limbaugh out for his constant dissembling. We have long said that the public deserves to be told about people who play them for fools. Finally, one broadcaster seemed to get fed up too. Many such sessions should follow.

As we have said, the world created by pseudo-cons is a target-rich environment for liberals. President Bush has made a mess of everything he’s ever touched, and the pseudo-con apparat propping him up has been a sick, vile joke for decades. But weak-minded liberals have twiddled their thumbs, too dumb and too frightened to speak up in public. No, liberals don’t have to embellish facts (or doctor quotes) to make a case against this laughable gang—and Olbermann finally begins to do what should have been done long ago. Who knows? Maybe we’ll finally se E.J. Dionne (and Mark Shields; and Al Hunt; and Richard Cohen; and the Washington Post editorial page) do what should have been done long ago—tell the public, in direct, simple terms, that a decades-long joke has been made of their discourse, and that they must tell the jokers to stop.

THE MORE TYPICAL LIBERAL REACTION: Sadly, a more typical liberal reaction was seen on Wednesday’s Hannity & Colmes. Gordon Liddy and Eleanor Clift were discussing Cindy Sheehan. In fact, Clift is tougher than most press corps liberals. But when Liddy called Sheehan anti-Semitic, Clift offered a telling non-response:

COLMES (8/17/05): This game of guilt of association....you want to link every liberal who ever walked the face of the earth to every left-wing cause. So what if other people want to join in [Sheehan’s protest]? Many Americans feel the way Cindy Sheehan does.

LIDDY: Well, I think that it's true that there are Americans who feel the way Cindy Sheehan does. Unfortunately, they are Americans who are very anti-Israel and in some ways anti-Semitic. She uses the term, how the “neocons” are doing this thing. That's code word for “the Jews in the Pentagon.” She has made statements such as—

COLMES: Are you calling her anti-Semitic?

LIDDY: Yes. If she gets Israel out of Palestinian, then we can get out of Iraq. I mean, you know, check out her statements.

COLMES: You think she's anti-Semitic?

LIDDY: Yes.

COLMES: That's outrageous.

HANNITY: G. Gordon—

CLIFT: That is really almost not worth responding to.

Perfect! No, you can’t make a dumber statement than Liddy’s—that every time somebody says “neocon,” she actually means “the Jews in the Pentagon.” Liddy’s comment was utterly brainless—and it captured the nasty tone that has long typified pseudo-con ranting. But what did Clift say in reply? “That is really almost not worth responding to!” And sadly, that perfectly captures the way mainstream and liberal journalists have long “responded” to this sort of thing—which explains why Liddy’s nasty, stupid ranting has enjoyed such a long shelf life.

What should Clift have said in reply? She should have said, There they go again! There they go again, with their vile, stupid comments, just the way we’ve told you for years! But liberals can’t make a statement like that, because libs and Dems, for the past twenty years, have refused to build a framework around statements like Liddy’s. Liberal and mainstream scribes have refused to challenge the rantings of the Limbaughs and Liddys. Result? Voters hear about “liberal bias” every day—and never hear about pseudo-con kookery. The Liddys have made a sick joke of our lives—and the Clifts have never dared to stand and say to them, simply: Enough!

HOW THE MASSACRE ENDED: By the way, here’s how the massacre ended. “I know you are, but what am I” seemed to be Clift’s basic framework:

HANNITY (continuing directly): It's outrageous what has been said.

LIDDY: Look at her statements! Look at her statements! Judge for yourself!

CLIFT: Look at your statements!

HANNITY: All right. This group, she's—all right, we'll look at each other's statements.

CLIFT: Exactly!

HANNITY: Thank you both for being with us.

As noted, Clift is tougher than most mainstream scribes. But the poverty of her response is clear—and it’s a tribute to twenty years of mainstream and liberal silence. Let’s pray that Olbermann paved the way for the mockery—and explanations—yet to come.

THE LATEST FROM NORAH O’REILLY: We thought Norah O’Donnell was awful on Wednesday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/18/05)—but things got even worse one night later. She spoke with former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer (as “Anonymous,” he wrote Imperial Hubris.) Here was the segment’s first Q-and-A. In a word, the question was mindless:

O`DONNELL (8/18/05): Michael Scheuer left the CIA in 2004 after 22 years with the agency. He was the CIA`s man in charge of tracking Osama bin Laden and what he was up to. And he warned the CIA director that our country faced an imminent threat from Osama bin Laden. Michael, what can you tell us about these newly declassified memos from July and August of 1996, that the Clinton State Department knew that Osama bin Laden had the wherewithal to attack the United States?

SCHEUER: Well, it was very much common knowledge across the intelligence community that if—once Osama bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, that he would be much freer to operate. There was no government in Afghanistan, it was a free range sort of territory. From the CIA`s perspective, it was the best possible place for him to go because we could operate there more freely. And we thought for sure we would be able to provide the government with chances to capture or kill him. As it turned—

Like any good cable hack, O’Donnell never explained what “newly declassified memos” she meant. (They had not been discussed at any point in the show.) And in her discussion with Scheuer, she never got close to the issues which were actually raised by the memos, which were discussed in this Wednesday New York Times report. Instead, like any cable pseudo-con hack, O’Donnell pursued a brainless line, seeming to think it was news that President Clinton failed to kill bin Laden during his years in Afghanistan. Here, for example, was her second question—a question she delivered just as any cable pseudo-con hack would:
O`DONNELL (continuing directly): But many people have made the impression that something in the Bush administration was done wrong. But there`s evidence that the Clinton administration knew full well that bin Laden had the wherewithal and was planning to attack the United States. Who is to blame and did the president, Clinton, get this information?
“There’s evidence” that Clinton knew (something like) that? This period has been discussed for years. For example, in his new book The Survivor, John Harris devotes seven pages to Clinton’s approach to bin Laden during the period in question (pages 403-409). Last year, the topic was widely discussed during the 9/11 Commission hearings, and the issues involved are widely explored in the commission’s report. But O’Donnell hasn’t heard—or is willing to fake it. Just try to believe her next statement:
SCHEUER (continuing directly): Certainly the president got the information. And most certainly his closest adviser, Sandy Berger and Mr. Clarke—Richard Clarke, had the information from 1996 forward that bin Laden intended to attack the United States. There`s no question of that. And in terms of which administration had more chances, Mr. Clinton`s administration had far more chances to kill Osama bin Laden than Mr. Bush has until this day.

O`DONNELL: That`s very interesting. I don`t think that many Americans know that or think that everything that they`ve heard—you`ve spent your life tracking Osama bin Laden. From what we know now and what you know, how many missed opportunities were there to prevent the 9/11 attacks?

Simply put, it can’t be done—you can’t get dumber. But to her vast credit, O’Donnell did try. In Question 5, she did her high school drama teacher proud, closing her eyes (for feeling), bobbing her head (for emphasis), and putting full feeling into her statements—statements which might have been surprising to someone in October 2001:
O`DONNELL: So what you`re saying is that when you ran the bin Laden desk, you knew where bin Laden was. You knew that bin Laden was trying to attack the United States. You knew that bin Laden had the wherewithal and that the policy-makers in the Clinton administration and then the Bush administration did not heed your warnings?
Completely, utterly, wholly inane. Soon, as if to prove her inanity, the hapless host issued this howler:
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you, because you spent 22 years tracking Osama bin Laden, he is still at large, we are fighting an insurgency in Iraq where there are allies of Osama bin Laden, what threat do you think bin Laden poses to the United States now?

SCHEUER: Well, at first—I only tracked him for the last 10 years, ma`am. I tracked him for as long as the U.S. government has been tracking him.

Duh. To hear the hapless O’Donnell tell it, Scheurer had been “tracking bin Laden” all the way back when the gentleman was on our side!

How perfectly dumb was O’Donnell’s segment? This dumb—the previous night, Bill O’Reilly had done the very same segment! Here was O’Reilly’s introduction of the topic—his Wednesday “Talking points memo:”

O’REILLY (8/17/05): The group Judicial Watch has been tracking bin Laden and filed a Freedom of Information request for a State Department report that detailed bin Laden's activities. It took Judicial Watch four years, but this week they finally got the secret documents and they are devastating.

Two memos written in July and August 1996 warned the Clinton administration that, "[bin Laden] can retain the capability to support individuals and groups who have the motive and wherewithal to attack U.S. interests almost worldwide."

In the years following that top-secret analysis, bin Laden ordered the bombings of two U.S. embassies and the USS Cole. One month prior to the memo, al Qaeda killed 19 American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

So Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and you would assume President Clinton, knew that Usama bin Laden was on the attack, yet the USA allowed him to operate in Afghanistan without sanction.

At least O’Reilly explained which memos he meant. But: “Allowed him to operate in Afghanistan without sanction?” As everyone knows (except on cable), part of that period’s “lack of sanctions” was the failed attempt to kill bin Laden in 1998, in the famous missile attacks where Clinton was said to be “wagging the dog.” But this attack was never mentioned during O’Reilly’s segment with Scheuer. Instead, O’Reilly did his high school drama teacher proud. He acted as if Clinton had never acted at all, and as if this is stunning new unexplored news. And Scheuer seemed to play along—although, in fairness, he can’t be blamed for the inanity of his two cable hosts.

O’Reilly produced a clown show on Wednesday; like a good girl, O’Donnell copied. So here’s an idea: Maybe when Olbermann gets through with Rush, he can discuss O’Donnell too! After all, he went on the air this Thursday night directly after Norah’s clowning. Yep—when she finished with Scheuer, she “threw” to Keith. Maybe Keith will eventually tell the world about the ethics on his network too.