Continuing Bill Moyers' interview last night with host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann about the relationships between politics and journalism, fielding questions from Moyers' own staff on how Olbermann perceives his particular style of journalism.
It is-- it becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. I would like nothing better than to go back and do maybe a sportscast every night. But I think the stuff that I'm talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history that this era will be looked at the way we look now at the-- at the presidents and the-- the leaders of this country who rolled back reconstruction // I think it's that obvious. And I think only under those circumstances would I go this far out on a limb and be this vociferous about it.
BILL MOYERS: Quote, "I have long had mixed feelings about Keith Olbermann. While it's nice to have a cable anchor how doesn't obsequiously parrot Republican National Committee talking points, I struggle with the fear that angry histrionics on both sides create more of the ugly polarization that paralyzes our institutions and prevents Americans finding common ground. How does Mr. Olbermann differentiate his ad hominem attacks from those we see on the other side?" What do you say to Jesse?
KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, they're better written. The first-- no, I hate to-- I-- it's the most vulnerable point because it bothers me, too. It do-- it's the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We're doing the same thing. It is-- it becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. I would like nothing better than to go back and do maybe a sportscast every night. But I think the stuff that I'm talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history that this era will be looked at the way we look now at the-- at the presidents and the-- the leaders of this country who rolled back reconstruction // I think it's that obvious. And I think only under those circumstances would I go this far out on a limb and be this vociferous about it.
BILL MOYERS: Another question from Gloria. "Yesterday I was scanning some of Mr. Olbermann's clips and I found one especially striking. He was calling Bush a war profiteer, more concerned about the profits of the defense industry than the lives of the soldiers. Right after he was done speaking, an ad came up for Boeing. Does Mr. Olbermann feel his credibility is at all undermined by the fact that his network is financed by some of the very industries he decries in his commentary?"
KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah. If we're going to try to go corporation-free in any regard, I'm afraid everybody watching would just be prepared for that, you know that old test pattern with the Native American head appearing in the middle of it. 'Cause we're all, to some degree, involved in it. It's a nation of corporations, whether we like it or not. As I said earlier, the fortunate part about broadcasting is if I'm making them money, it doesn't make a difference to them and I'm on the air, how I'm doing it. And to be fair, many of these people on an individual basis have consciences that cannot be expressed in a corporate sense. Many of the people for whom I work-- say, "You are saying things that I cannot say." So I get support in a different way entirely from my bosses.
BILL MOYERS: Follow-up from Reniqua. And this could be to me, too. "You're a middle-aged white man who works for GE. What's so different from you sitting at the news desk than Walter Cronkite 40 years ago? Why should people listen to you?"
KEITH OLBERMANN: I can't personally do anything about my-- about my racial background. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow anything other than what I am. I just-- I'm just taken, though, by the Cronkite analogy because, of course, it was Cronkite who did exactly what we're talking about in a very focused way--
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, when he--
KEITH OLBERMANN: --on Vietnam.
BILL MOYERS: --when he came back from Vietnam and said-- the war has been lost. And Lyndon Johnson said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."
KEITH OLBERMANN: But the point being that there was-- there were emergency circumstances that he saw, too.
BILL MOYERS: Emergency?
KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: You keep using that word. Are we in an emergency?
KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, we're being-- what-- here-- this is one thing with which I agree with George Bush. We're in an emergency. He and I could just sit there-- we just talked about what an emergency we were in and never went into details, we'd have a great time.
BILL MOYERS: What is it, as you see it?
KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, it is the question of the future of the nation. It's one of those pivotal times in our history. And I don't know that necessarily everybody sees it in those terms because it is, once again, an opportunity not merely for any external threat but for internal threat. Governments exist based on power that is taken from people. It is-- they are necessary. I'm not an anarchist. I believe in government. But there is-- there's no-- no possible interpretation other than to say that this administration and the Republican Party, to some degree the Democratic Party, have taken advantage of fear, of the unprecedented, nearly unprecedented attack that we saw in 2001, to expand their powers on the premise always of security, which is, you know, the famous Franklin, Jefferson warning about that is it's never been more applicable. So it is, yeah, it is emergency circumstances as Walter Cronkite saw it. I mean, here-- objective Uncle Walter, most trusted man in America. When I have an opinion on the most important political issue of the day, I'm gonna sink a president and maybe throw the election to the other guy right now. And he said, well, you know, the chips have to fall in this direction because people are dying and our country is, to some degree, wounded and bleeding. And our country is wounded and bleeding now if we don't know whether or not habeas corpus exists.