Posted tagged ‘1968’

There’s small choice in rotten apples.

May 24, 2008

If anyone had told me a few months ago that I’d be expressing sympathy for Hillary Clinton in this blog, I’d have laughed – maniacally. Yet, in a strange way, I almost feel compelled, if not to defend her, at least to express sadness at the way she was maligned yesterday by the otherwise amusing Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC.

To be sure, yesterday’s events surrounding her wrong-footed reference to the ’68 primaries, and RFK’s assassination were dark and creepy. And certainly, this is not the first time that she (and Bill) have waded into the atavistic swamp of America’s political unconscious for political gain. Make no mistake here – I find both of them politically and ethically odious, the embodiment of almost everything that is wrong with, or has gone wrong with the US and the Democratic Party in the past 20 years. And, if the press had been doing its job over the past few months, she would have long ago been called out for the type of campaign she has run, and the media’s indulgent gaze upon her destructive and narcissistic quest would likely have ended.

But, of course that did not happen – the ample reasons for which need not detain us here – and she continued to play a cynical triangulating game of working the refs, playing both sides against the middle, and running out the clock on the Dems’ chances of coming together before the convention to forge some kind of popular front (however anemic) against the increasingly neo-fascist GOP.

But no matter how badly one may dislike Hill and Bill, that is no excuse for the embarrassingly puerile performance of Olbermann on last night’s edition of Countdown. I’ll admit that I find his show to be a guilty pleasure. It’s rather like spending some time in a boisterous political frat house of center-left boomers, slamming back a few beers (maybe even the odd bong-hit) and playing the dozens. Olbermann, for all his preening self-regard, is certainly no dummy; and he puts on a very good show. I can even overlook the ham-handed corporate sniping against MSNBC’s rivals CNN and Fox in the guise of political commentary. Yes, Bill-O and Glenn Dreck are worthy of copious ridicule and abuse, but there are plenty more interesting targets that go un-punked. For instance, I wouldn’t mind seeing Joe Lieberman or Abe Foxman in the sights a time of two. But, I digress.

What particularly irked me about Olbermann’s visceral attack on Hillary was not that it was necessarily undeserved, but that it was gratuitous. Nobody who watches the show regularly could miss the fact that Keith is for Obama and against Hillary. That’s fine; so am I. And I dont’ think it’s unfair, or sexist (pace, Katha Pollitt) for her to be made fun of in personalizing or dismissive ways – that’s politics, and it’s the game that all of these sell-out egomaniacs that we call political leaders sign up for.

Olbermann’s ‘special comment’ about Hillary last night, however, was completely over the top. It conflated her mention of the tragedy of RFK’s assassination with raising the specter of an attempt on Obama. Putting aside for a moment the question of what was actually in Hillary’s mind, or whether she had any dark motivations, it was simply irresponsible of Olbermann to make such a hysterical big deal out of it.

The mere reporting of this shabby turn of events will certainly seal the fate of the Clinton campaign. There can be no doubt about that. What Olbermann’s rant accomplished, though, was not just to give vent to the frustrations of Obama supporters about the conduct of Hillary and her campaign and make some sort of definitive moral judgment on her, but ultimately, it also tarnished Obama supporters and Democrats in general by proxy. It made them seem petty, vengeful and opportunistic by association.

Sadly, Olbermann took what otherwise was a tawdry ending to a flawed political campaign, and turned it into a seething resentment, a festering political wound that can only come back to haunt the Democratic campaign in the fall. Hillary supporters will not forget this, and, I imagine, the right-wing noise machine will continue to remind everyone else of it. So, Keith – slam back a beer, have bong-hit, take a valium … whatever. But stop confusing your own sense of importance with political relevance or gravitas. It’s just not on. From now on, stick to political satire.