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Olbermann Talks Back

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A couple of days ago I linked to an article by Glenn Greenwald from Salon republished among other places in CommonDreams in which Greenwald excoriated Keith Olbermann for going light on Barack Obama for his vote in favor of the "compromise" FISA Bill passed out of the House by Steny Hoyer and his band of DLC flakes. I agreed with Greenwald that Olbermann's first and always duty is to the truth, even if it pinches the candidate that he so obviously favors. To so obviously favor one candidate over another, to my mind, establishes a special pleading which must be neutralized even if it requires one to bend over backwards to realize neutrality. Having said this, I do not believe in the notion that there are two (or more) truthful sides to every story. "Fair and balanced" should mean that the truth is reported and the falsehoods uncovered. Apparently, Greenwald's and other comments at Daily Kos got under the skin of Keith Olbermann. This is the good news! He listens. The bad news is that he is stubbornly clinging to the story as it was interpreted to him by John Dean, the frequent "insider" view of the siege-mentality WhiteHouse (based on his experience with President Nixon). Briefly, the story is that the FISA Bill only immunizes the telecoms against civil actions, not criminal ones ... and this is the big hole in the Bill that gave Obama courage to vote for it ... and Olbermann courage to misrepresent (in my view) Obama's vote as a necessary measure on the way to getting elected. To be sure, Obama is of very little use to us coming in 2nd in November, and yes, he does have to mind the anti-terrorism store. But, Obama and Olbermann stretch our credulity when they say that civil prosecution of the telecoms is unimportant and that perhaps if Obama is elected they will prosecute them under criminal charges. We are off into hypotheticals here. The ugly fact is that Obama saw a way to skinny through a putative loophole and took it. Olbermann saw the loophole and took it too. It was Olbermann's job to present the facts and let us draw our own conclusions. He did not do that. He drew the conclusions and then backed into the story. This is not the level of incompetence displayed by Bill O, Hannity, and the rest, but it is disconcerting. I hope Keith understands his role better after this incident. JB
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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese History, (more...)

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