Gotta hand it to Keith Olbermann. He’s great at setting up the promos, as he showed today by sending out an early tweet today after falling silent all weekend, saying he would tweet his next tweet at exactly 8pm EST, the time Countdown would ordinarily have been on the air.
This sent Twitter into a veritable frenzy of anticipation and excitement. What would he say? What would he be doing? Where will he be? When he finally issued the promised tweet, it said this:
My humble thanks to all Friends of Keith for the many kind words. The reports of the death of my career are greatly exaggerated #FOK
And THAT tweet set off a maelstrom of tagged #FOK tweets ranging from calls to watch Craig Ferguson’s show to calls for him to run for Joe Lieberman’s seat in the US Senate.
There’s still much angst in Twitterville over his abrupt departure, despite the very clear signals sent by Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell tonight.
Keith Olbermann was done. This was no ouster. He chose the time, the day, and the words to inform his audience, but it was his decision to make. Making it before the Comcast merger took hold was certainly part of the calculation, as I see it.
But from a human standpoint (and Lawrence O’Donnell drove this home in his remarks tonight), Keith Olbermann had lost both of his parents in the last two years. He was responsible for putting on a show 5 days a week with cutting-edge commentary, humor and truth, not to mention a few interviews thrown in for good measure. He was featured during many special political events, like the State of the Union and others. Meanwhile, he’s watching wingnuts like Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart really get some traction on the Internet, and getting a public smackdown for making contributions to a couple of Democrats, one of whom was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Ever think maybe he just wanted to do other things? Rachel Maddow’s pointed use of the phrase “Keith chose to end his contract” says it all. No matter who you may not trust, Rachel Maddow has proven herself trustworthy. He was done. Tired. Running on fumes. It happens to the best of us, and in this political climate, who hasn’t it happened to?
I liked Keith Olbermann’s show, though there were times where I thought he was too bombastic, too much Bill O’Reilly’s foil. But what I really liked about Keith Olbermann was his ability as a connector. As Maddow, O’Donnell and Schultz all pointed out, he was the one responsible for putting them in their seat. I’m certain I wouldn’t have a clue who Chris Hayes was if I hadn’t seen him on Countdown and TRMS as commentator and guest host.
Keith Olbermann’s greatest strength is his ability to identify and promote other strong, true progressive voices. On MSNBC, he managed to elevate 4 of them. Imagine what he could do with a wider palette and different medium?
Meanwhile, Twitter is wringing its collective hands like the man has died. I say, give him some time out to breathe and recover from a life lived in rapid-fire time, and then see if he doesn’t emerge (or burst) onto the scene via new media and a brand-new real-time network of his own. I’ll pay attention to his updates and new endeavors for sure, but as much for those he allows to share his platform as for the man himself.
I’m not prostrate with grief that the man needs a time out, and hope my Twitter buds won’t be for much longer. On the other hand, if Rachel Maddow were to take a quick exit, I’d be completely bereft. That is a true testimony to Keith Olbermann’s gift for finding voices we want to hear. I look forward to the next group.