In the opening teaser for his new show on Current TV —conveniently called Countdown with Keith Olbermann — Olbermann played a clip of Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham saying, “I wonder what (Ronald) Reagan would think,” which was a reference to the GOP presidential contenders’ seemingly universal call for the U.S. to pull back from its various overseas military entanglements, including in Libya. Olbermann responded to Graham’s question by saying Reagan would say “nothing. He’s dead, he was a lousy president and he helped keep Gaddafi in power.”
Welcome back, Keith.
Olbermann’s first guest, filmmaker and now apparently a “special contributor” to Countdown Michael Moore, opened his comments by saying, “I’m honored to be your first guest on your first show,” before going on to criticize President Obama’s Bushian tactic of trying to circumvent Congress and the War Powers Act by saying that our involvement in Libya isn’t really a “war.”
Yes, Countdown remains an equal-opportunity check to what Olbermann and his guests see as cultural hypocrisies/threats to democracy, no matter the party affiliation.
Much of the rest of the new Countdown remains as it was at MSNBC, including a segment called “Worst Persons.” Olbermann also delivered a brief “Special Comment,” in which he described the new Countdown as “a newscast of contextualization, and it is to be presented with a viewpoint that the weakest citizen of this country is more important than the strongest corporation, that the nation is losing its independence through the malfeasance of one political part and the timidity of another, and that even though you and I should not have to be the last line of defense, apparently we are, so we damned well better start being it.”
Now the question is whether anyone will hear/see Olbermann’s “last line of defense” — Current TV’s current prime-time audience is about 50,000, slightly more than the amount of people who were in attendance at the Cincinnati Reds/New York Yankees game last night. Olbermann has been on a promotional blitz in recent weeks (read a Rolling Stone feature here, and a New York Times Magazine piece here), during which he has made it clear that he intends to take back as much of his MSNBC audience as he can — the first Current Countdown ended with Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tearing into Olbermann's former colleagues at MSNBC.
Of course, Olbermann has a long history of alienating coworkers/employers. In a recently published oral history of ESPN called Those Guys Have All the Fun, onetime colleague Bob Ley summed up Olbermann's departure from the channel this way: “We felt not so much relief when Keith left as unrestrained fucking joy.”
It will be interesting to see how long Current TV head-honcho Al Gore, who is counting on Olbermann to lift his network out of obscurity (word is the host being paid in the $10 million a year range), holds out before his temperamental new employee starts getting on his nerves.