Keith Olbermann signed off last night for the last time from MSNBC. And I was mildly surprised.
First, contrary to some of my conservative friends (Yes, some of my best friends are conservatives.) I enjoyed Keith, discovering him for the first time only after then State Senator Obama delivered the incredible keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. We were having a meeting of the South Chicagoland Young Democrats, and Michael Kean – then a high school student, now in college, and someone you should consider voting for some day if he runs for office – told me to find Keith Olbermann on the Web. This was one of Keith’s closing commentaries, have no idea which one, but I loved it.
Now, contrary to some of my liberal friends, I was not a Keith Olbermann "fan," whatever that is. I did not watch him every night. I was more partial to Rachel Maddow.
You can have Ed Schultz. The whining is too much for me.
But I did watch Keith, and, his melodrama and over-the-top flair aside, I enjoyed and most often agreed with him.
Yes, Olbermann was often melodramatic. Yes, Olbermann was often over-the-top. World’s Worst Person? Really, Keith?
Overall, however, Olbermann’s message was, by far, coherent and consistent. And wonderfully liberal: the American Dream is for everyone: from the richest rich to those living in squalor. And everyone, everyone, is entitled — yes, entitled — to the same opportunity. The rich are not (necessarily) rich because they’re smarter, wiser, or more deserving (entitled?). The poor are not (necessarlily) poor because they’re not smart, unwise, or less deserving (excluded?). The Liberal is the thinker, not wedded to ideology, wedded only to the truth. To compassion.
And it is possible to have a thriving economy that is also wedded to truth, to compassion.
For whatever reason, Olbermann lost his job. MSNBC and he decided that they could not continue to work together. It turns out, Keith has a history of not working well with a boss. In his 32-year career, the Washington Post reports, "His nearly eight years hosting "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was by far the longest he’s lasted in a job during his career as a broadcaster."
And that, much more than a commentary on liberalism in the new millenium, or pushing Keith’s leave as the dominance of conservatism in the media, or at MSNBC, the simple, sad truth simply may be that Keith doesn’t like having a boss.
Here’s what Olbermann taught us: Liberalism sells. While his ratings slipped recently – many of us took a breather after the 2008 election – Olbermann’s show remained the most popular show on MSNBC.
O’Reilly, Beck and Limbaugh remain on the air – as entertainers. They are empty voices, concerned only with their only bottom line.
Olbermann, for all his flaws, had a conscience. And a heart.
So it goes, Vonnegut would say.
So it goes.