The executive suite at MSNBC is the last hardened corner of America to concede that maybe Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are nowhere close to the textbook definition of detached, "straight news" anchor. Their decision to abandon what was tenderly called their anchoring "experiment" only acknowledges that the idea was a bust: MSNBC was regularly coming in dead last among the commercial cable-news and broadcast-news network covering the conventions.
NBC News is coming to the realization that Olbermann and Matthews aren't only suppressing MSNBC's ratings on election and convention nights, they're ruining whatever credibility NBC's brand retained. When the boos really kicked in during Sarah Palin's acceptance speech in St. Paul, the delegates started chanting "NBC! NBC!" as the foremost example of partisan excess from an "objective" source. It's gotten so bad that old NBC warhorse Tom Brokaw is decrying how these men have "gone too far." This is shocking stuff coming from an anchorman who gave a Reagan-trashing interview to Mother Jones magazine in his Eighties heyday.
It's important to note that in the day-to-day flow of anti-Republican acid at MSNBC, this announcement means very little. It's not like their shows were canceled, like poor Tucker Carlson. Matthews and Olbermann still retain their regular hours of fulmination. In fact, the network brass made it very clear in their statement that abandoning the anchorman experiment would enable the two liberal agitators "to offer more candid analysis during live coverage." Translation: We don't think these blabby, childish embarrassments to journalism are animated enough.
The convention coverage wasn't embarrassing enough, apparently.
Start with Olbermann coming typically unglued because the Republicans dared to show a video in remembrance of Sept. 11. It was about three minutes long. It contained allegedly controversial themes like jihadists have wanted to kill Americans for decades. They still want to kill Americans. We say never again. No more attacks like Sept. 11. So what?
Sounding like he was trying to choke down tears, or maybe vomit, Olbermann declared the video was inappropriate, and that if his network showed this much 9/11 footage, "we would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead and perhaps even for trying to evoke that pain again." This is ludicrous, considering how much Matthews and Olbermann boosted the Kerry-endorsing "Jersey Girls" in 2004 and their crusade to charge President Bush with the crime of 9/11.
The day after the Republican convention ended, Olbermann named John McCain the "Worst Person in the World." Olbermann lamented that when McCain suggested to Time magazine that Iraq is now a "peaceful and stable country," he revealed "a man suffering from at least one actual delusion, to say nothing of an utter disrespect for the meaning of the loss of life. It is not funny. It is shameful."
And MSNBC wants more "candid analysis."
After Barack Obama concluded his Athenian oration from Invesco Field in Denver, Olbermann and Matthews weren't glum. They were absolutely giddy. Olbermann was wowed: "For 42 minutes, not a sour note and spellbinding throughout in a way usually reserved for the creations of fiction. An extraordinary political statement." Matthews found a way to top that, and thumb conservatives in the eye: "You know, I've been criticized for saying he inspires me, and to Hell with my critics! ... In the Bible, they talk about Jesus serving the good wine last. I think the Democrats did the same."
The goo flowed like lava from a volcano over Barack's historic acceptance address. Restraining his thrilled leg, Matthews also announced: "It is an iconic night in history: We'll all remember this night as long as we live." Olbermann oozed that Obama was both Mandela and Gorbachev: "it happens as suddenly in some respects as the Soviet Union crumbled or apartheid was beaten in South Africa."
Outside of special events coverage, MSNBC's executives haven't really seen the light about how their Obamaholics Unanimous lineup is bad for ratings. Even as they yank Matthews and Olbermann away from the anchor desk, MSNBC's adding hard-left Air America radio host Rachel Maddow to consolidate the "progressive" carpet-bombing after dark. They think they're the Genius Channel. In a gooey Boston Globe puff piece on Maddow, MSNBC prime-time boss Bill Wolff declared his network is a brand for "high-powered intellects ... I'm not saying we're NPR, but there is an appetite for really smart discussion of the news."
And these people think John McCain is suffering from a delusion.