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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Keith Olbermann's latest Special Commentary on John McCain

Four times in just two days, Senator McCain’s campaign managers have, simply, hung him out to dry.

First, trying to scapegoat the media, in the exact way that has spelled doom for other presidential candidates already watching from the sidelines.

Second, doing so with a petulant statement so full of holes that it virtually **confirms** that which was reported, and which set off this pointless temper tantrum in the first place.

Third, sending the candidate out to speak before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, even as the millstones of a series of disastrous, anti-veteran votes, still figuratively dangled from around his neck.

And fourth, encouraging Senator McCain, while there, to address his opponent in the language of unseemly contempt, undignified calumny, and holier-than-thou persiflage unsupported by reality… near-nonsensical bluster that — at best — makes the speaker look like a dyspeptic grouchy neighbor shouting “Hey you kids, get out of my yard.”

“Though victory in Iraq is finally in sight,” you told the V-F-W today, Senator McCain, “a great deal still depends on the decisions and good judgment of the next president. The hard-won gains of our troops hang in the balance. The lasting advantage of a peaceful and democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East could still be squandered by hasty withdrawal and arbitrary timelines. And this is one of many problems in the shifting positions of my opponent, Senator Obama.”

The shifting positions of Senator **Obama**?

Senator McCain — on the 22nd of May, 2003.. you said, of Iraq, **on** the Senate floor, quote:

“We won a massive victory in a few weeks, and we did so with very limited loss of American and allied lives. We were able to end aggression with minimum overall loss of life, and we were even able to greatly reduce the civilian casualties of Afghani and Iraqi citizens.

Senator — you declared victory in Iraq, **five years and nearly three months ago**.

**Today** you say: “victory in Iraq is finally in sight”?

The victory you already proclaimed five years ago?

Are we going back in **time**, Sir?

If that had not been enough, in **June** of 2003, with even **Fox News** noting “many argue the conflict (in Iraq) isn’t over,” you answered:

“Well, then why was there a banner that said ‘Mission Accomplished’ on the aircraft carrier? Look, the — I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the conflict — the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished, and it’s very appropriate.”

In 2003, your war was won, because somebody was putting up a… banner.

In 2008, your war might finally **be** won, because **you** are putting up… a campaign based on the mirage that Iraq **is** winnable.

And yet it is **Obama** shifting positions on Iraq?

Even if this country were to forget, Senator, the victory lap you and President Bush took five years ago — just on their face, your remarks today at the V-F-W, Senator, are nonsensical.

“Senator Obama commits the greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory.”

This construction, Senator, is extremely simple.

If your surge worked, the troops would be home from Iraq.

Or **most** of them, would be.

Or all of them who **were** surged, would be.

Or at least we’d have the same number of troops in Iraq now, as we did then.

Or… maybe one or two guys would be out of harm’s way.

Please, Senator McCain, stop!

This is **embarrassing**.

Whether on his own impetus or an advisor’s…

The Senator also foolishly invoked his **opponent** in that speech today.

Previous political **careers** have foundered on the rocks of the V-F-W Convention:

The Republican majority in Congress and the Senate — the very viability of Secretary of Defense **Rumsfeld** — began to unravel at this convention two years ago — that was the venue for the first of Rumsfeld’s two references to Bush critics as Nazi Appeasers.

Prudence and judgement, demanded that Senator McCain tred lightly.

Instead he told the convention, quote:

“I suppose from my opponent’s vantage point, veterans concerns are just one more issue to be spun or worked to advantage. This would explain why he has also taken liberties with my position on the GI Bill…. As a political proposition, it would have much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation. But the people of Arizona, and of all America, expect more from their representatives than that, and instead I sought a better bill. I’m proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families, and better serves the interests of our country.”

Senator McCain spoke out **against** that very bill last May — on the asinine premise that the rewards to our heroes were so good that it didn’t encourage them to stay in the service.

Or perhaps **force** them.

More over, Senator McCain missed 10 of the 14 Senate votes on Iraq up to the middle of last year.

This year, he has missed them **all** — including one to honor the sacrifice of the fallen.

He has voted to table or oppose:

20 million dollars for veteran’s health care facilities.

322 million dollars for safety equipment for our troops in Iraq.

430 million dollars for veterans outpatient care.

One billion dollars in new equipment for the National Guard.

And, in separate votes: One billion, 500 million dollars in additional Veterans’ medical care, to be created by closing tax loopholes.

And one billion, **800** million dollars in additional Veterans’ medical care, to be created by closing tax loopholes.

And yet, Sir, you have the audacity to stand in front of the very Veterans you repeatedly and consistently **sell out**, and claim it is your **opponent** who has put politics first, and country second.

“Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president,” you said — with a straight face — today. “What’s less apparent is the judgment to be commander in chief. And in matters of national security, good judgment will be at a premium in the term of the next president — as we were all reminded ten days ago by events in the nation of Georgia.”

Senator, three points:

One — is your increasingly extremist and reactionary language towards Senator Obama **really** the method by which you want to try to achieve the Presidency — or perhaps split the country if you succeed?

Two — criticizing a man for having quote “the ambition to be president”? Seriously? You **do** realize you are **currently** running for president, as well, right? That either you also have “ambition to be president” or, what?, somebody’s **blackmailing** you into it?

And three — you might want to ask somebody — somebody other than say, your Foreign Policy Advisor, Randy Scheunemann — whether or not you are making a jackass out of yourself every time you bring up the conflict between Georgia and Russia.

The Georgians have paid Mr. Scheunemann and his companies 800-thousand dollars over the last several years to **lobby** for them.

It’s pretty clear the Georgians have **bought** Mr. Scheunemann.

And, Senator McCain, it sure as hell looks like the Georgians thought they had bought **you**.

When you had the tastelessness to paraphrase the rallying cry of 9/11 and say that we are now all Georgians, that nation’s President **called you out**…

He said that your words were very nice, but he needed action — not a verbal receipt from a lobbyist and his pet Senator!

Going back to the beginning of this sad 48 hours of paranoia from the McCain Campaign…

We have manager Rick Davis’s unfortunate letter to NBC News, about Andrea Mitchell’s reporting on the possibility that Senator McCain violated the so-called “Cone of Silence” for the Rick Warren Presidential Forum over the weekend.

The coverage of this detail, and that forum in general, is, to start with, overwrought.

But Mr. Davis has elevated them to the ridiculous.

As Nate Silver at the website ‘Five-Thirty-Eight-dot-com’ noted, Andrea’s reporting — reporting of what the Obama camp claimed — included two essential observations:

“McCain may not have been in the cone of silence”… and that he

“May have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama”.

Rick Davis writes to NBC: “The fact is that during Senator Obama’s segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed.”

As Silver astutely notes, for roughly the first half of Obama’s participation, his own campaign manager places McCain in a **car** — where he could have been made aware of the questions to Senator Obama. “In a motor vehicle,” Silver writes, “one may use the radio, a cellphone, a Blackberry, Bluetooth Wireless, a Slingbox, and perhaps a satellite TV feed. Whether McCain actually used any of those devices, we have no idea. But he absolutely had the ability to use them, which is all that Mitchell had reported.”

Silver also tripped over Mr. Davis’s strange observation that for roughly the second half of Obama’s participation, his own campaign places McCain, quote, “in a green room with no broadcast feed.”

Not a green room without cell service or internet, nor without a closed-circuit feed, nor, for that matter, without a guy running back from the audience with notes, written in crayon.

Rick Davis’s argument is, in short, illegitimate.

It is an attempt to pick a fight with the media, over the journalistic equivalent of chewing gum in class.

“This is irresponsible journalism and sadly, indicative of the level of objectivity we have witnessed at NBC News this election cycle,” he writes.

“We are concerned that your News Division is following MSNBC’s lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race. We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC.”

What Davis is **really** saying here, of course, is that he wants **no** level of objectivity, that the only campaign he wants questioned is Obama, and that “partisan coverage” consists of questioning whether McCain or his campaign support the stage whispers branding Obama as somehow ‘foreign,’ or whether McCain is to be inoculated from all criticism by dint of his military service.

Senator McCain — did you pay **any** attention to the **Democratic** primaries?

Did you notice the hair-pulling frenzy of some of Senator Clinton’s supporters who could not face the possibility that her loss might have been **her** fault — or **theirs** — and thus it must be **ours**?

Do you remember the apoplexy of a washed up Republican operative named Ed Gillespie, writing a furious letter to NBC on behalf of President Bush?

Mr. Bush’s support has since dropped.

And **Senator Clinton’s** supporters have now relocated to such a degree that her “eighteen million voices” first re-counted themselves as “two million” and were then unable to get even 250 people to show up at a meeting.

The public sees through this nonsense, Senator — they see through it quickly.

NBC and MSNBC do not have the power to seriously impact an election.

If we **did** — Senator Pat Buchanan would already be serving **with** you.

Besides which, Senator, who in your camp thought it was a good idea to take a shot at NBC and MSNBC… **during the Olympics **on** NBC and MSNBC?!?

**During** the Olympics, Senator McCain, on which you have already run millions of dollars’ worth of McCain Campaign **commercials**… on NBC and MSNBC!?!

Senator, let me wrap this up.

You — and your campaign — need a serious and immediate attitude adjustment.

Despite what you may think, Senator McCain, this is not a coronation.

Despite how you have acted, Senator McCain, you have no automatic excuse to politicize anything you want.

Despite how you have whined, Senator McCain, you have no entitlement to only sycophantic, deceptive, **air-brushed** coverage in the media.

And despite how you have strutted, Senator McCain, you have no God-given right to the Presidency.

Let’s have an adult campaign here, in other words — and I am embarrassed to have to say this to a man who turns 72 at the end of this month — Senator, grow up!


Anonymous Jonathan said...


If I could speak to Keith Olbermann, I'd probably talk to him about glass houses and throwing stones. I'd ask how he, a fellow Jew, could be so critical of McCain on Iraq and so non-critical of Obama on Darfur. "Shifting of positoins"?! I realize this is something that has escaped notice by many outside of the crazy activist types who would boycott the olympics over things our government (both the White House and Congress) have officially declared a genocide, but someone should record it for history: Barrack Obama once favored actually fulfilling the international convention on genocide, at least to a point of putting a no-fly zone over Darfur so the Sudanese government couldn't provide helicopter support to the roaming mass-murder/rapists they support. Then he decided to run for presidency, and not only did he promptly end his previous high-visibility on the issue (good chance to publicly pal around with George Clooney), he windsocked on his position.

I'd like to know what Olbermann thinks of that, but Darfur doesn't make "Countdown." Bill O'Reiley is more of a "worse person in the world" than Bashir or Gosh ("who?"). Still, I'd ask him if he had family members who died in the Holocaust and what they would think of the choices he makes for his "special comment" (let alone last-five-minutes-of-the-show segments).

(If it wasn't apparent, I don't particularly like Keith Olbermann. I still think Obama is miles ahead of McCain on most substantive issues and deserves anyone's vote -- the only thing I'll grant McCain is that he has shown on several occasions a willingness to risk considerable political capital on issues he cares about).

1:11 PM, August 19, 2008

Blogger Stuart Shea said...


I don't think that anyone could argue that Obama has been consistent in all of his positions or that he's right on all the issues.

I appreciate Olbermann because he is literate, he understands the power of words, and he calls a spade a spade. McCain is an arrogant old windbag, and his campaign, bearing all the Rovian marks we know and love, has sunk to new lows in its cynicism.

Questioning the patriotism of a United States senator...implying that he, not the guy with eight houses, is some sort of rich short, give me a fucking break.


7:46 AM, August 20, 2008

Anonymous Jonathan said...

I'd agree if it was any issue other than genocide, and I don't disagree that no matter how icky I find Olbermann it doesn't make this last "special comment" is any less correct. But imagine how much contempt history, and particularly Jews, would have for a senator in Obama's position in 1938: the senate's lone Jew, extremely popular, and one of the leaders of the movement to take forceful action against the Nazis who then decides to run for President and goes completely mute on the Nazi question, then later "inconsistently" saying it's largely Europe's problem but maybe America could help. The reason Olbermann and everyone else doesn't feel the outrage about Darfur that they do about Iraq is the same one Pat Buchanan gave 20 years ago: America cares more about an earthquake in Europe than anything that happens in Africa. The reason isn't just that we don't view black Africans as fully human, we don't even pretend to (and I'm not exempting African-Americans from the "we"). If we did the 4,000,000 dead in Congo would have received, oh, 1% of the media coverage that Georgia is getting now. I also don't think Olbermann is saved because he "gets Iraq right" -- to make another analogy, imagine a racist traffic cop who only tickets Asian-American drivers for DUI's. Each person he or she tickets may be absolutely guilty and deserving of punishment, but the racism is a greater crime. And that's why I can't stand the righteous tone that Olbermann routinely invokes.

12:59 PM, August 20, 2008

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Mindful as I am of the importance of Darfur, I don't see how anything Olbermann said here is incorrect.
McCain is lying and backstabbing his way to the top of the polls, like republicans do, and he's getting called on his shit.

I'm glad somebody's calling these assholes on it. You want we should wait for Fred Barnes or Andrea Mitchell?

7:15 PM, August 21, 2008

Anonymous Jonathan said...

Oh, I tried to make clear that I don't challenge the accuracy of anything Olbermann is saying in the editorial. Again, my analogy is to the racist traffic cop -- the people he/she tickets may indeed be driving while drunk and the cop's racism doesn't make the drunk driving any more excusable. That doesn't make the cop's racism less damnable. I'm only saying that in Olbermann's case we have someone who is unparalleled in selective morality.

Interestingly, Mitchell has a Darfur history of her own -- in what I believe is her only attempt to cover the story (arround two years ago), she traveled with a group of reporters to Sudan and was physically handled roughly by government security forces. This incident received more network news coverage than Darfur has in 2008 combined. I don't believe she has ever followed up on the story, but she did talk about the incident during a book tour.

11:08 AM, August 22, 2008

Anonymous steve o said...

Jonathan, I just don't understand your logic. If Olbermann doesn't slam Obama for flipping on Darfur, why does he lose the moral authority to question BushCo about Iraq? Even granting that he flipped, Obama's is still far more sympathetic to the cause of Darfur than any Republican, and an Obama presidency would be far more likely to result in a more effective American response. So let's say Olbermann does a special comment on Obama's Darfur flip, which is picked up by the right wing noise machine and makes Obama's road to the White House more difficult. How exactly does that improve the chances of halting the genocide in the Sudan?

As for Iraq v. Sudan as a priority for Olbermann (or anybody else for that matter)...your implication that anyone who is concerned about the situation in Georgia or getting our troops out of Iraq (not in Europe, BTW) is a racist. I am not a racist. The catastrophic loss of life in Iraq is the direct result of our intervention. While it does not rise to the level of genocide, Americans still have blood on their hands. For that reason alone, Iraq ranks higher on my priority list than Darfur. I guess my priorities weigh other factors than simply a body count.

But Darfur and Congo and Rwanda, et. al, are not ignored solely because the victims are black, but because the perpetrators are not interfering with multinational corps ability to do business. Money has a far greater impact on international priorities than racism.

Iraq has also made clear that we no longer have the ability to enforce our will on sovereign nations. Ending the genocide in Darfur would take military intervention on the scale similar to Iraq. If you think the no fly rules and international sanctions will end the slaughter, you are naive.

Lastly, Olbermann is 'icky' and 'unparalleled in selective morality'? Seriously, have you ever watched FOX? Outside of Bill Moyers, I cannot think of a TV broadcaster with a national stage that is more effective at upholding the adversarial role that journalists are supposed to have with the government. It will be very interesting to see how he is able to transition to an America with Democrats in control of the White House and Congress.

8:52 PM, August 22, 2008

Anonymous Jonathan said...

Steve-o: Lots of thoughtful points there! To respond more briefly than they deserve, I'm not saying Olberman doesn't have a license to comment on Iraq, but that he doesn't have license (from me at least) to be so obnoxiously selective in his self-rightous moral lecturing. Obama's Darfur windsocking is just as contemptable as McCain's Iraq demagoguery. I'll admit I hold my fellow Jews, who frequently invoke the words "Never Again," to a higher standard, but if Olbermann demonstrated 1/1000 as much concern about the only officially declared contemporenous genocide of his life as he does Iraq, I'd have given him a pass.

But if genocide doesn't work for you, pick another issue. Say Obama turned into Tom Tancredo on immigrant rights or Alan Keyes on gay rights. Do you really think progressives would bite their tongues? I don't.

I also disagree on the role of big business here -- yes, they are frequently the enemy of human rights, but there are no more natural resources in Bosnia and Kosovo than there are in Rwanda and Congo. Heck, we even bucked Russia in order to save Kosovo.

As to racism, being concerned with Georgia/Russia surely doesn't make one a racist. Being concerned *only* about Europe, or where white people are dying, might.

8:53 PM, August 25, 2008

Anonymous jonathan said...

P.S. One quick last rant (I feel like I've hijacked Stu's blog -- sorry Stu!): nothing would be more valuable for taking action against human rights abuses of all kinds in the future than getting the world (not just ourselves) off oil. To me energy independence is an overarching issue because so many other things (the environment, the long term health of the economy, world hunger [yes, biofuels raise food prices]) flow from it.

9:00 PM, August 25, 2008

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

You haven't hijacked the blog! You're making it work.

9:53 PM, August 25, 2008

Anonymous steve o said...

Jonathan -
I am an Olbermann apologist, but even I was wincing at his over the top praise of Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC last night. In the Darfur example that you site, I thnk the reality is that Olbermann's man crush on Obama and his (which we all share) overwhelming desire to get Republicans out of the White House prevents him from any meaningful critique of Obama. That is why I am interested to see what Olbermann's show morphs into if Democrats take control of national politics. Obviously he will continue to rebut right wing talking points, but he may also try to help draw attention to issues that need to be on the agenda.

Anyways, I guess the bottom line is that I feel that we need more voices like Olbermann (go Rachel Maddow!) on the national stage. Therefore, I feel compelled to give him a pass on this as well as all the air time he wastes on beating up Bill O'Reilly. I guess the best counter analogy I can make would be that your stance is the equivalent of saying to Woodward and Bernstein: 'Hey, nice job on that whole Watergate thing, but where were you on Vietnam? Burundi? Now that Nixon is exposed, are you going call attention to what Pinochet is doing in Chile?' Would you contend that they had their priorities screwed up as well?
Olbermann has gained viewership and national attention doing what he does, and I forward some of his "obnoxiously selective...self-rightous moral lecturing" to independants who find him persuasive.

This thread is all over the place. Classic fractured left. I have contemplated starting a blog (with Stu in the fold) called Interested in contributing?

10:05 AM, August 26, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you put lipstick on John McCain he will still be John McCain.

3:09 PM, September 15, 2008


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