Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'As I Was Saying ...'

"This is to be a newscast of contextualization, to be delivered with a viewpoint that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation. That the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political party and the timidity of the other."

With that mission statement on Monday, June 20, 2011, one of the most reliable and forceful progressive voices in America returned to the airwaves. Keith Olbermann returned with the debut of the newest edition of Countdown With Keith Olbermann on Current TV Monday night, and save a new set, a new channel and some other small tweaks, the show seems to have changed little in the six months since it last aired on MSNBC.

Which is a good thing.

The theme music is (largely) the same, as is Olbermann's "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?" opening. The format of the show is largely unchanged -- though "Oddball" is now called "Time Marches On." His "Worst Persons in the World" segment, complete with organ music, returns, though Olbermann seemed to be trying to make it extra-clear this segment is supposed to be sarcastic.

Olbermann had three of his contributors as guests -- filmmaker Michael Moore, author and former Nixon administration member John Dean and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas (now that he no longer had to worry about crybaby Joe Scarborough) -- and the topics ranged from Libya to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the state of the GOP presidential candidates to a little MSNBC-bashing, for good measure.

By and large, this was the Countdown progressives knew and loved. Olbermann wasn't kidding in the press leading up to the premiere that the show would remain largely unchanged. This might've been simply because it was his first episode on a new network and Olbermann didn't want to stray too far from the familiar; it'll be interesting to see how the show evolves in the coming weeks and months.

I have two minor quibbles with Olbermann's return on Monday, the first of which actually has nothing to do with Olbermann himself. Current TV is not available through my cable provider, and seeing as how I live in an area where my cable company has a monopoly, my choices are either the cable company or satellite.

Current TV's website allows you to enter your zip code to find where the network is carried in your area. If it is not offered, Current gives you three ways in which to convince your provider to carry Current TV. Time will tell how successful those efforts are, but in the meantime, those of us without the network will have to find other ways to get our dose of Keith.

Secondly, when Olbermann and Dean were discussing Justice Thomas' glaring conflicts of interest, Olbermann raised the question as to why Congressional Democrats were not screaming for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from cases in which there are conflicts of interest and/or resign. It was a fair question to ask, considering how Republicans would smell blood in the water if a liberal justice were accused of the same thing; however, one very important point was ignored.

There was a member of Congress -- a Democrat, no less -- who was hounding Justice Thomas regarding his conflicts of interest. But he resigned last week, in part because his own party wouldn't support him amid a scandal that was, admittedly, disturbingly tame.

So not only are Democrats not pressuring Justice Thomas, but they kicked out the one guy who was. This is that timidity Olbermann mentioned above.

All in all, it's wonderful to have Keith Olbermann back on television. There are legitimate concerns about Current TV's reach, or what Olbermann can do with a little-known network that isn't available everywhere, but if his previous work in establishing and re-branding ESPN and MSNBC are any indication, it just might work.

Moreover, Olbermann's no-nonsense approach and adherence to the facts is desperately needed in today's media climate, and his frustration gives a voice to progressives who can no longer find such a passionate, forceful voice among their own representatives.

This is why I fill so much space on this blog with Olbermann's work; his voice fills a void that desperately needed to be filled; if the progressive we put in office will not speak up and fight for us, we need someone in the media who will -- and Olbermann, all his personal issues be damned, is that person.

Liberals need Olbermann; more importantly, though, the country needs him.

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