If any of the talk radio and cable news demagogues (Rush, Glenn, Laura, Ed, Michael, Marc, Bill, Monica, Rachel, Chris and the now-unemployed shouters over at Air America) have ever publicly admitted their rhetorical excesses, I’ve missed it. Thus I was stunned to witness just such an admission from arguably the worst offender of all, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. It came about in the wake of Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart’s extended parody of one of Olbermann’s trademark rants, concluding with the observation, “All you’re doing is calling people names now…and that’s my thing!” Olbermann, who does have a sense of humor, showed the whole performance on his own show. Then, following feigned indignation, he confessed, “You’re right. I have been a bit over-the-top lately.”
True, it would have been more impressive if complaints from an individual who did not have Stewart’s impeccable liberal credentials and pop culture mojo had prompted Olbermann’s moment of truth, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Keith Olbermann has taken that first, small step toward civility and respectful discourse. He deserves our praise and encouragement. Who knows? If his rehabilitation goes well, Michael Savage may stop calling President Obama “that putz.” Marc Levin may stop categorizing all Democrats as “those idiots.”
But it’s a start!