That guy on MSNBC looks like that guy who used to host SportsCenter

S.E. Cupp’s column in today’s New York Daily asks a question that I happened to be thinking of the other night: why is Keith Olbermann, a left-wing political opinion entertainer, a fixture on sports programming while Rush Limbaugh, a right-wing political opinion entertainer, radioactive?  Olbermann and tag team partner Dan Patrick contribute to NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and he writes a baseball blog (baseblog?) for Limbaugh can’t even buy his way into national sports.

Cupp is right to ask the question, but the situation is not a double standard – and media watchdogs would be wise to let this one pass lest they look foolish.  Many folks know that Olbermann made his national bones on ESPN.  Few know that he was a particularly intelligent and funny sportscaster, even if his encyclopedic knowledge of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders Base Ball Club gave an early glimpse into the pomposity with which he now doles out his nightly “Worst Person in the World” award.

Limbaugh is much more widely known, but his entire public persona is based on creating controversy.  And when he had a chance to be a “sports guy,” he injected politics, famously pointing out that Donovan McNabb’s perception had as much to do with desired media narratives as it did with actual on-the-field performance.  Sure, there was media bias in the coverage of what he said, but a seat at an ESPN desk is not the place to talk about sports media bias if you want a long career in sports journalism.  Then again, ESPN was probably looking for a sideshow by hiring Limbaugh in the first place.

This isn’t to say that Limbaugh should be more like Olbermann, but the fact is that there are plenty of people – large numbers, actually – who don’t watch MSNBC.  To them, Olbermann’s image hasn’t been “tainted” by his politics. Olbermann still does sports because he always has done sports – and because, on some level, he’s good at it.

While Limbaugh will always be the “Republican talk radio guy,” Olbermann can still be the guy who pioneered the practice of using catch phrases to narrate sports highlights.  That may or not be something to be proud of, but it’s kept him working.

The coming political apocalypse

Start the hand-wringing and eulogizing: 80% of Americans don’t trust the government.  Combined with the fact that some people like to own guns and the calls for rebellion by national policy experts like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are inciting rebellion with seditious rhetoric, the violent revolution can’t be far behind.

Our Republic is clearly doomed.

Based on what I caught on the Sunday Morning talk shows yesterday, here’s what we can expect in the coming months:

Increased antagonism between right-wing ideologues and progressive thought leaders. As experts examine previous social programs – and which new social programs must be implemented to fix them – the tea partiers will grow louder and louder.  Their simple-minded sentence fragments – such as a call for a more reserved and focused federal government which permits society to develop its own mores and guidelines organically to reflect those of the people combined with stronger states which work in harmony with federal officials to ensure that government services are optimized to best serve the needs of the people – will drown out the more educated progressives’ more refined and intellectual plans to pump up program budgets.

More people buying guns and getting violent. As if to gnash their metaphoric teeth in the wake of Tax Contribution Day, a bunch of right wing nut jobs got together in Northern Virginia this past weekend to rally for their Second Amendment rights.  Some even brought their guns to the rally!  In contrast, cooler heads held a rally opposing gun ownership just across the river in Washington, D.C. – where tight restrictions keep out gun violence.

Violent overthrow of the government. These bitter, angry people who distrust government may even coalesce into a bitter, angry mob and try to disrupt the November elections.  Foaming at the mouth and blinded by their hatred of the government, they may descend on local polling places, march in one by one, check in with a poll worker, show necessary identification if required, and then angrily pull levers other than the one with “Incumbent” written in next to it and thus tossing the people in office out instantly (after a careful counting of the votes and a two month transition period).

It wasn’t exactly clear how we’ll get from these initial steps to Beyond the Thunderdome.  We’ll have to tune in next Sunday morning to find out.

Eight-year-olds, Dude

Erick Erickson of Redstate reports on a county council race in Ohio that features candidate Tim Russo.  The twist: Russo was arrested and convicted in 2001 on charges of soliciting minors for sex – turned out, the minor was actually an undercover FBI agent.

But Russo has an ardent defender in blogger Howie Klein.  Klein calls the 2001 incident “the most boring episode of To Catch a Predator ever” in a cross-posting at both DownWithTyranny and The Huffington Post:

Easily the most reactionary pope since Hitler’s boy Pio, Ratzinger didn’t have a problem with priests raping young boys– as long as they stuck with conservative dogma. When he ran the Munich diocese that was also the birthplace and heartland of the Nazism that he once fully and openly embraced, the future Pope had hundreds of child rapists and mentally unbalanced priests in his ranks and he never said a word beyond, “don’t get caught, boys.”

My mistake – that last paragraph was Klein criticizing the Pope and the Catholic Church for covering up instances of adults taking advantage of minors.  It was written way back in those simple times of late March 2010.

Of course, Klein has a point – no matter how much you agree with someone philosophically, if they do something wrong that has consequences.  Unless, apparently, it’s a political candidate Klein supports:

Russo has the sort of leadership experience Cuyahoga County desperately needs at this dangerous, hopeful crossroads. But local media are doing their best to scuttle his campaign before it really begins. Why? Because in November 2001 he solicited sex from an FBI agent posing online as a minor and was made Pervert of the Day for an entire 24-hour news cycle. Local media want him to pay for that for the rest of his life.

Clearly, Russo has paid for his crimes, but there are a few mistakes which you simply can’t pay off – and soliciting minors for sex is one of them. As Edwin Edwards famously quipped, the scandals which end political careers are getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

Russo has compounded his crime with his own words, sounding more defiant than understanding of the reluctance to embrace him.  “Bottom line, I survived it. Many would not have. That should tell you all you need to know,” he writes – just before asking for donations.

Flubs of Steele

Michael Steele shouldn’t have blamed his recent fundraising flaps on racism.  Luckily, he didn’t, despite the headlines crawling around today

Watch the clip: Race was actually brought into the discussion as part of a viewer question, which Steele answered honestly – and, to be fair, correctly.

Maybe Steele should have been a little clearer on the fact that he was speaking broadly about the fact that, although we have come pretty far in this country, black people still get the crap end of the stick more than they should.  He did bring it up as a bipartisan issue.

But his out-of-context quote has been framed to sound like an excuse and repeated over and over.  Any person who wrote a headline – or worse, a story – that implied that Steele was hiding behind race for the recent RNC scandal is either a political hack or a bad journalist.  (And ABC’s own site, which claimed Steele “played the race card today,” is no better.)

Again, watch the clip.

Last week the New York Times went over the top, implying that anyone who opposes government-run health care might as well be hanging with Ed Norton and Edward Furlong and giving out curb smileys to anyone who rooted for the Lakers over the Celtics in the 1980s.  In comparison, Steele’s mild observation is a much more reasoned and well-thought-out social commentary on race relations.

Thankfully, the White House’s Robert Gibbs set everything straight during the daily press briefing, calling the concept that black people and white people are treated different “fairly silly.”

Because there could be no better expert on race relations than this guy:

NPR’s (unnecessary) mea culpa

NPR has sort of apologized in a post by their ombudsman for the controversy drummed up by this cartoon:

The cartoon drew the venom of conservative commenters for both its use of the loaded term “tea-bagger” and the fact that it was summarily dismisssive of the tea party movement.  And though the cartoon has an undeniable ideological bent, the real problem here is not with NPR.  There are two issues at play.

First, conservatives in the Tea Party movement have not found a way to own the term “teabagging.”  There are ways to do so, but they require an attitude adjustment (or, some might say, an attitude problem) that many establishment conservative movement organizations are unlikely to accept.

Second – and more importantly – is an important aspect of all conservative cries of media bias.  Consider this reply from an NPR staffer:

“Would it be nice if there were other Web-original cartoons from other perspectives to run with Fiore?” said [NPR News Executive Editor Dick] Meyer. “Sure. We think there are and we’ve been looking for a while in fact. And I think criticism that we don’t have a conservative cartoon is certainly legitimate and reasonable.”

The problem isn’t really that Mark Fiore made a cartoon that skewers the right, it’s that the right isn’t in a position to skewer back.