Keith Olbermann, the former sports broadcaster (ESPN/Fox Sports) who went on to be a cable news host/pundit (MSNBC/Current TV), announced today that he was "retiring from political commentary in all media venues" because he is confident that the Trump presidency will be over soon.
He gives Trump 13 months.
"I am confident now even more so than I have been throughout the last year that this nightmare presidency of Donald John Trump will end prematurely and end soon, and I am thus also confident that this is the correct moment to end this series of commentaries."
Why step away now?
"No illness. No scandal. No firing," said Olbermann. "Just I've said what I've had to say. It was as obvious as I made it seem. I give my work everything I can, so it's not like I can dial it back."
There is a small, shameful particle in my brain that has never stopped feeling drawn by Olbermann. For a long time, his trademark "Special Comments" about this or that moral failing of this or that dreadful Republican acted as a necessary tonic to bolster my certainty that "our" "side" was in the right.
Particularly during the Bush administration, his stentorian baritone proclamations were a corrective to the prevailing moral relativism and 50-million-Elvis-fans-can't-be-wrong lassitude that prevailed in so much of the media and the culture of that era. He was one of a very few prominent media figures who helped a lot of us feel like we weren't the only people who could see how naked all these emperors actually were. His presence and voice did what the best TV presenters do: alleviate the feeling of powerlessness just enough to help you go out and return to the misery that is life.
Olbermann's greatest asset, and his most egregious weakness was his verbal style, which I can only describe as a font of rhetorical and ideological grandiloquence that would make the ghost of Fidel Castro blush. Talking that way 20 years ago made him stand out from his fellow sportscasters. Talking like that 10 years ago made him stand out among liberal-leaning commentators who felt gagged by the supposed popularity of the Republicans in charge of the country. (He's also widely credited with moving MSNBC toward its current incarnation as a liberal counterbalance to Fox News, and for bringing Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell into their fold.)
But talking that way now, when the whole internet is swollen with people talking like that, feels de trop. Olbermann helped certify hauteur and addressing your remarks to an indignant mob that already agrees with you and is hungry for fuel as the prevailing tone of political discourse. (He's also the one of the worst offenders of that thing where people can't talk about America or the Constitution without sounding like they're wearing a powdered wig.)
The series of rants he's been doing for GQ magazine (!?!), in which he rails against the legitimacy of Trump's presidency, demands his impeachment, and generally pounds his fists and howls, is called The Resistance. That's not a term to be used so lightly, even if Olbermann's intention is serious. He makes good points (many of which have been made by others) and presents an unwavering commitment to his premise. But the worst thing about the series is that it makes him sound like an actor.
And a good actor knows when the show is over.