Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values

Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values

by Keith Olbermann

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Short, sharp, and oftentimes shocking, Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comments” have made his nightly MSNBC program, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, must-see viewing–and the fastest-growing news show on cable TV. In these segments, Olbermann calls out the perpetrators of mismanagement, brutality, cronyism, and the appalling lack of accountability at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In so doing, Olbermann goes where most of the mainstream media fear to tread–and his rapidly expanding audience eagerly follows.

In Truth and Consequences, Olbermann collects the best of his Special Comments, presented here with additional observations and other new material. Whether taking to task the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and (the thankfully former) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who compare critics of the Iraq War to Nazi appeasers, or giving his impassioned perspective on why torture is un-American and what it really means to support our troops, or grilling timid lawmakers who fail to rein in presidential overreach and abuses of executive power, Olbermann’s devastatingly blunt (and at times wickedly funny) commentary cuts to the core of the duplicity and cynicism of a government that has lost the ability to distinguish between leading our great nation and ruling it.

Naturally, Keith Olbermann’s candor and razor-sharp polemic have earned him many detractors and enemies. His antagonists in the media, such as Bill O’Reilly, have mocked him and accused him of rank intolerance. Yes, Keith Olbermann is intolerant–of hypocrisy, demagoguery, fear-mongering, and especially the equation of dissent with treason. In Truth and Consequences, he fights to reclaim for himself and all Americans the dignity of speaking one’s mind and acting on one’s conscience.

Praise for Keith Olbermann
“A truth-telling, Bush-bashing accidental liberal hero.”
–New York

“The most honest man in news . . . Olbermann clearly relishes his feuds and doesn’t seem to worry much about sparking new ones.”
–Rolling Stone

“Part Jon Stewart (the funny), Dennis Miller (the erudite and biting sub-references), [and] H. L. Mencken (the skewering of power and stupidity in equal doses) as well as crusading journalist . . . Olbermann has emerged as a kind of force of nature.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“Intelligent, well-read, forceful and incisive.”
–Rocky Mountain News

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588367655
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/26/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Keith Olbermann is the host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. A veteran broadcaster, he was the co-anchor (with Dan Patrick) of ESPN’s SportsCenter from 1992 to 1997 and helped to launch ESPN2 and ESPN Radio Network. Olbermann is the recipient of numerous awards in radio and television broadcasting, including the Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of the events of 9/11. He has hosted prime-time news programs, moderated a debate between Democratic presidential candidates, anchored the World Series broadcast, and written for dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, and Sports Illustrated. He co-hosts MSNBC’s election night coverage and NBC’s Football Night America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Hurricane Katrina

September 5, 2005

While we didn't realize it at the time, and we hadn't yet enshrined the format or come up with the name, this was in fact the first Special Comment.

I was on my way out to a minor league ballpark to clear my head of the first week of the cascade of disasters that was Hurricane Katrina, when I chanced to turn on the television. There was the secretary of Homeland Security-a John Waters look-alike without the charm-explaining to me that Louisiana was a city that was largely underwater. At first, the gaffe made me feel as if I were underwater. I needed to check that transcript to see if that's what he had really said.

Needless to say, I never made it to the ball game.

As I would later tell an interviewer, this was one of those moments when it felt like the words were just coming out of my fingers-when my indignation, more as a citizen than as a journalist, made it necessary to address a topic directly and at length.

And the words had not come out at that length in sixteen years. The only time I had ever previously written anything resembling, in shape, tone, or texture, the definition of the word "screed," I had been a local sportscaster in Los Angeles-angered and humiliated that when the 1989 World Series was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area, baseball staged no charity exhibition game, or promised any specific aid, even though the players wore on their chests the very names of the cities most heavily impacted by the disaster-San Francisco and Oakland. I pledged to donate the equivalent of the salary I would have made covering the series and challenged baseball's teams and players to do the same. The commentary lasted six minutes-six minutes out of a twenty-five-minute Sunday night sports broadcast.

When I got back to the office the next afternoon, the phones were still ringing, management was encouraging me to repeat the commentary on that evening's news, and the first reactionary newspaper columnist was comparing me (unfavorably, I should point out) to the character Howard Beale in the prescient movie Network. Almost all of the elements, good and bad, of the Special Comments were foreshadowed in those few days, principal among them that it was necessary to do and say things like this-but only when it was necessary, and not merely when it was rating "sweeps" time.

The next time it was necessary, for me anyway, was after Michael Chertoff faux-pas'd himself into the history books. For some, Hurricane Katrina was a lightbulb moment, when they realized that the president and administration in whom they had put their faith were in fact incompetent. For the rest of us, it was yet another case study in the dissonance between what they said and what they did. Like a lot of people, I was outraged as much by the administration's incompetence as I was by its apparent indifference to the people of New Orleans.

A day after I presented this Comment, Barbara Bush had her own Marie Antoinette moment, a jaw-dropping moment in which she was blissfully sanguine about the people huddled in the Astrodome: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Suddenly those murmurs, that "Bar" was not the benevolent grandmother implied by her carefully manicured image, had been confirmed. It was suddenly not hard to figure out either of the George Bushes.

The Katrina comment apparently struck a chord. It quickly made the rounds on the political blogs; my boss pulled me aside to encourage me to make similar remarks whenever the spirit moved me; Rolling Stone would put me alongside everybody from Jack Murtha to Seth MacFarlane in its year-end issue saluting "rebels"; and we even heard rumblings that the commentary was viewable in a pirated edition online, courtesy of some brand-new company called "YouTube"-whatever that was.

secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater . . ."

Well, there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip of the tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might've saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government: that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating VJ Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could've brought last Monday and Tuesday-like the president, whose statements have looked like they're being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by the head of what is ironically called "the Department of Homeland Security": "Louisiana is a city . . ."

Politician after politician-Republican and Democrat alike-has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were-congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded-even the Internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won reelection last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defy its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans-even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern-

a group called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection-or at least amelioration-against all threats, conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that "we are not satisfied" with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the vice president lately? The man whose message this time last year was "I'll Protect You, the Other Guy Will Let You Die"?

I don't know which "we" Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been-as we were taught in social studies it should always be-whether or not I voted for this president, he is still my president. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government-our government: "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame-in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a twenty- first-century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "No one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930s. "The responsibility" of government, Churchill told the British Parliament, "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is, in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself-it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere in the city of Louisiana.

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Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Keith Olbermann is a amazing newscaster. He speaks the truth and isn't afraid of making enemies unlike other newscasters who try to please only their political party. This book shows us how incompetent the Bush administration and others around it really is and I hope Keith Olbermann continues standing up for what is right.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Olbermann came along on MSNBC at just the right time to expose those who would have us give up our individual rights, sack the Bill of Rights in the name of false security, and trash the Constitution in favor of rule by corpocracy with a ruling elitist oligarchy 'read: Republican Party'. His thoughtful insights are forcefully presented here and in his TV news show. It is unfortunate that it takes such forceful presentation to wake many of us up to what is happening to our rights as citizens it is very fortunate that we have someone so fearless as Mr. Olbermann to do so.
06nwingert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since I'm a major fans of Olbermann's show, 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann,' I decided I'd give his book a try. I thoroughly enjoyed Keith's commentayr on how bad the last eight years were under Bush and the republican party. If you want an objective look at the previous presidential and congressional administrations, I suggest Truth and Consequences. Filled with short chapters and larger font, the book chronicles the horrors that the Bush administration did to America for the past 8 years, such as Katrina, 9/11, and the phony 'war on terror.'
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a collection of Olbermann's Special Comments he started making in 2006. They're good, and shows that Olbermann is one tv newscaster who really knows what is going on, but they begin to sound alike after a while. The thing I found that most irritating yet amusing was the constant use of the word "sir' when addressing President George W. Bush, or the Idiot Shrub, as I prefer to call him. You can just hear Olbermann saying it with utter contempt... as, indeed, Bush has shown himself worthy of, and Olbermann provides good reason for that opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Actually liked the guy on ESPN. Than lost all respect for him when he seemed to take delight with his peers at MSNBC, whom to a person seemed delighted in what they termed a "civil war" in Iraq. Than came their shagrin with the sucsess of the surge. His nightly rants about Gitmo (the first time in the history of mankind that pows/illegal combatants have gained weight during imprisonment, guess his next argument would have been that their lipid levels had become dangerously high) which have been discontinued since BHO was elected POTUS.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book plays to a certain group, basically the just-about-everyone-now crowd. 'See Bush approval ratings for more details.' The truth hurts for those who still don't get it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book plays to a certain group, basically the hate Bush at any cost crowd. Wish I could get my money back on this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for those of us who appreciate the truth that comes from Olberman. This book is primarily his special comments and, like all of his program, well thought out
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Olbermann is one of the few broadcasters who is willing to speak truth to power. He is my hero. His writing is straightforward and concise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading his essays you will understand why Olbermann was instrumental in pushing the pendulum of public opinion back to the sweet center of American politics as evidenced by the outcome of the 2006 Congressional elections. Olbermann has been forced by history to become point man in the resistance against the radical right's crusade to institutionalize what Warren Buffet recently called ¿government of, for and by the plutocracy.¿ Olbermann confronts the alien ideology of neo-conservatism which by deception seeks to make war and occupation of other nations a permanent tool of American foreign policy. Going where others fear to tread, Olbermann leads by countering lies with plain spoken truth, ferreting out corruption and war profiteering, and taking down the uninformed pretensions of conservative extremists littering the land by hammering them over the head with humor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Keith Olbermann has become the Edward R Murrow of our time. His special comments are not only eloquent and brilliant but are the voice for working class Americans who have become the innocent victims of the abuse and misuse of power. Keith is an outspoken champion for freedom of thought at a time when there are some who would ask us to give that freedom away. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Keiths Special Comments have increased viewership of his program significantly and with good reason. His observations are sharp, honest & uncompromising. A must-read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally, someone who stands up for ALL Americans, even when he doesn't agree with them! Keith Olberman has a razor sharp wit and a keen eye for reading between the lines to discern the heart of the argument. His laser blasts of honesty and integrity are what makes him a target to all those who only want THEIR way put forth for the public. Keith serves the public interest by keeping everyone honest. He doesn't turn off guest microphones if he doesn't like what you're saying or try to belittle you on national television. He saves the brutal truth for those that deserve it and doesn't pander to people who try to use fear as a way to grab power and maintain it by taking away Constitutional rights. Wake Up America!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Keith Olbermann is in rare form in this book. If you are like the increasingly many who watch and like his show, read this book. Ignore the troll who decided that Clinton bashing belongs here. They talk a lot about morals... Could it be because they have none of their own, as do most of the Republicans in the USA, who have given away all of our civil rights, and want the corporations to own this country?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Olbermann is all of us, angry and strong. Demanding truth and questioning lies. He is an outlet for all of us that are fed up and can't take it anymore!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just like his tv show Mr. Olberman has one goal in reporting the news of the world: Hate George Bush. His journalism is dedicated to the pure hatred of one man. I know there are people out there who are informed of the world through the words of Olberman and that is a shame. Olberman is no true journalist. For those of you who like to blame George Bush for all problems in the universe then Olberman is the man for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author misleads people to think there are no people in this world that want to harm Americans and those in the Bush administration are the tru evil-doers. Basically an author who uses freedom of speech to further his career without understanding you have to stand up and fight evil to maintain that freedom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To read Keith Olbermann is bear witness to a man self destructing with venemous hate and blind bias. It's sad really. His arguments fail to hold up to even mild scrutiny. To suggest otherwise displays an equally poor grasp of the facts and basic reasoning. It's not hard to imagine poor Keith spontaneously combusting when this book, like his show, fails to even come close to the success of his obsession¿Bill O'reilly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Same old ultra left wing, fingers in the ears 'na na na na na', bleeding heart crap. Unbelievably malice laden, viscous delivery of his 'opinions'. And you thought liberals were the kinder, gentler, caring ones? Just don't disagree with one...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This ex-sports commentator is the perfect example of a narrow-minded and anarchistic boob being allowed Prime Time exposure by a less-than-above-board electronic media. Only problem is his ratings expose his weakness.