On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann branded Rush Limbaugh as the "extreme right," and made an analogy between Barack Obama talking about trying to divide jihadists from Muslim moderates during his inauguration, and the President's current efforts to isolate Limbaugh from other conservatives. Hosting Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter as guest, Olbermann began: "In his inaugural address, the President essentially tried to create a wedge between those who are reasonable and those who are not. Of course, he was talking about the Muslim world. Is it possible in this different context that he’s trying to do the same as he seeks bipartisanship with the Republicans, sort of, you know, separate, Mullah Limbaugh from the herd?"
Inspiring laughter from Olbermann, Alter’s opening act was to take a jab at Limbaugh’s past addiction to Oxycontin in distinguishing him from the Islamic mullahs: "Yes, I do think that`s what [Obama is] doing, although the mullahs don`t send their maid out into the parking lot to score drugs for them, so I`m not sure about the comparison."
Alter admitted that he and Olbermann did not like the period since the mid-1990s when Limbaugh was so much in the center of politics, and argued that the conservative talk radio host is now moving to the "fringes," with the Newsweek editor opining, "which is where he belongs."
In his last question, Olbermann used the term "Reaganesque" to describe Obama’s personality, but seemed to hesitate in using the term, which probably indicates a not unexpected negative view of Ronald Reagan on Olbermann’s part: "If we can collectively pardon this expression, there may have been a certain, all right, Reaganesque quality in the Obama words today, it was tough talk about no longer ignoring facts, not passing the buck. So far, is the President effectively going over the heads of conservative punditry and even going over the heads of GOP leaders in trying to sell this idea and other ones?"
After Alter talked about how Obama, like Reagan, tries to talk about the big picture, Olbermann made another one of his infamous jabs at the physical appearance of conservatives, which at times have come in the form of fat jokes. Olbermann: "And we won`t make any large jokes about Mr. Limbaugh."
Last September, while discussing one of the presidential debates in which Henry Kissinger was brought up, Olbermann talked about the possibility of Obama "throwing Henry Kissinger back in Senator McCain’s face," adding that doing so "is physically a tough act to do certainly." The original NewsBusters posting can be found here.
In September 2006, Olbermann made several fat jokes about Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, once calling him a "fat ass," which can be found here.
On January 5, Olbermann referred to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as "that one guy who always looks like he has not readjusted after somebody popped a flash bulb too close to him."
Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann’s interview with Jonathan Alter from the Monday, January 26, Countdown on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN: And if the Republican theme is obstruction, much of its authorship comes from the same group of conservative commentators with whom the President dined a few days before he took office, many of them now bemoaning the Obama stimulus package as all bad, all the time, like David Brooks in his column in the New York Times. "It is an unholy marriage that manages to combine the worst of each approach -- rushed short-term planning with expensive long-term fiscal impact." And the fired again Bill Kristol on "Fixed News" (Olbermann’s name for Fox News), quote, "The stimulus has so much bad stuff in it they let the House Democrats get out of control in sort of writing a pork-laden bill. Politically, I think the Republicans have more room to argue for changes and ultimately vote against it." And the Washington Post’s ever-happy columnist, Charles Krauthammer, telling Fox News, quote, "Look, this is one of the worst bills in galactic history. FDR left behind the Hoover Dam, and Eisenhower left behind the interstate highway system. We will leave behind, after spending $1 trillion, a dog run in the East Potomac Park."
And there are those with whom Obama did not break bread, those on the radical right like comedian Rush Limbaugh. Comedian says that, quote, "Obama’s plan is to isolate elected Republicans from their voters. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at reestablishing eternal power for the Democratic Party rather than stimulating the economy." Wait, if it’s eternal power, it never stopped and you neither need to nor you can re-establish it. There was this from the always windated Limbaugh, a "throw-him-a-bone- along-with-a-few-stones" moment today.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: -I support, I just don`t support his policies. It appears he doesn`t know what he`s doing. He hasn`t run anything in a long time, and he`s never really accomplished much.
OLBERMANN: Let`s call in Newsweek’s senior editor, MSNBC political analyst, Jonathan Alter. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In his inaugural address, the President essentially tried to create a wedge between those who are reasonable and those who are not. Of course, he was talking about the Muslim world. Is it possible in this different context that he’s trying to do the same as he seeks bipartisanship with the Republicans, sort of, you know, separate, Mullah Limbaugh from the herd?
ALTER: Yes, I do think that`s what he`s doing, although the mullahs don`t send their maid out into the parking lot to score drugs for them-
ALTER: -so I`m not sure about the comparison. But, look, Rush Limbaugh is now in the process of moving from the center of our politics for the last 15 years – you and I might not have liked it, but that`s where he was. He was extraordinarily important in American politics – to the fringes of our politics, which is where he belongs. That doesn`t mean he loses his ratings. He`ll still have his fortune, but he`s no longer central to the debate. And when you have somebody like Bill Bennett saying that he was s out of line, Rush Limbaugh that is, in hoping that Barack Obama fails, that gives you some indication of how he can be marginalized. So what the President did was give that a little bit of a push, try to push Limbaugh out of the picture. And even though he gives him some more publicity in the short run, he does, as you say, separate him from the herd.
OLBERMANN: The Obama plan B, which clearly he has, to which he has clearly alluded, is that he will have enough votes to get what he wants on the stimulus package, even if he can`t get the super majority that he`d get from the bipartisan support out of the Republican Party. So, is this both his backstop and his prime bargaining chip even as he is seeking bipartisanship, "Look, if you don`t come along with me, here`s what it looks like when you don`t come along with me"?
ALTER: Well, I don`t think he’s getting into threatening anybody at this point. He`s still very much in a conciliatory, generous mode, which is where he wants to be politically because the American public does like that bipartisan tone. But every Republican member of Congress knows that this stimulus package, whatever the pundits might be saying about it, is in the bag. It is going to happen. The alternative is to do nothing. We`ve been there. It has failed. And so, the idea of Republicans going into the midterm elections, having voted against the President taking action against the crisis, it’s not going to do very well for them, even though a lot of times their base wants them to vote against this. So they will come up short, and the only question is, you know, what the numbers are. And I think what Obama will probably do is not focus too much on whether he got a super majority, focus on the fact that he’ll get some Republicans and then declare it to be a bipartisan victory shortly before Valentine’s Day.
OLBERMANN: If we can collectively pardon this expression, there may have been a certain, all right, Reaganesque quality in the Obama words today, it was tough talk about no longer ignoring facts, not passing the buck. So far, is the President effectively going over the heads of conservative punditry and even going over the heads of GOP leaders in trying to sell this idea and other ones?
ALTER: I think he`s just starting that process. He has more some work to do in communicating with the American public that we have to move on this. But the Reagan comparison is an interesting one, Keith. Remember, during the campaign, Barack Obama got in some difficulty with Bill Clinton by saying that it was Ronald Reagan who changed what Obama called the trajectory of American politics and that Bill Clinton was not able to do that. So, in some ways, Reagan is a model for Obama in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt was a model for Ronald Reagan, even though in each case, they’re on different sides of the spectrum. The idea is to think big and to play large in the theater of American politics. And that`s what Obama is aiming for.
OLBERMANN: And we won`t make any large jokes about Mr. Limbaugh.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of Newsweek and MSNBC. Thank you, Jon.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.