A Gadfly With Buzz

(By Jim Cooper -- Associated Press)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 3, 2006

Night after night, President Bush is being kicked, punched, slapped, poked, stomped and otherwise disrespected in one small corner of the cable television world.

And Keith Olbermann doesn't deny it has been good for ratings.

"I find myself currently aligned, not in the sense of having membership, but being in the same part of the ballpark as a lot of liberals," says the host of MSNBC's "Countdown."

Is Olbermann catering to the anti-Bush crowd? Since Hurricane Katrina, he says, a growing number of people have "had their eyes opened" to the administration's failings and do not see their points of view reflected in television news. "We have to be responsive to an audience's perception of the world or they will ignore us."

The former sportscaster denies that he's pushing an ideological agenda, noting that he relentlessly covered the uproar over Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in his first incarnation as an MSNBC anchor in 1998. Of course, he was so sickened by the spectacle that he quit, complaining about the media's role in the tawdry process, though he now gives every indication of enjoying his anti-Bush program.

Since the most prominent opinion-mongers in cable -- Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson -- are unabashed conservatives, Olbermann stands out as an acerbic administration critic. While his main guests are journalists, he sometimes interviews Democratic lawmakers but almost never brings on Republicans or conservatives, except for MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan. "There are not a lot of conservative guests who are happy to be on the show," Olbermann admits.

In recent weeks he has begun the program this way:

"Black-bag jobs and the Bush administration. In the past, previous jobs have been run against the likes of Martin Luther King, and Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, and the Democratic Party."

"Wheeling, West Virginia, where Joe McCarthy started his string of the most memorable speeches, today's stop on the George W. Bush I-Am-Nothing-If-Not-Deeply-Misunderstood Express."

"President versus media, again. Any credibility left, anyone?"

"Any similarity to President Lyndon Johnson, circa 1967, is purely coincidental."

"Pollster says, which one word best describes President Bush? . . . The correct answer starts with 'in -- ,' has 'compe -- ' in the middle and ' -- tent' at the end."

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