Detoxing Countdown fans got a double-shot of web-only methadone Wednesday, as the former MSNBC host dropped a video edition of his “Worst Persons” segment and the first “Special Comment” of the post-Countdown era. The subject was President Obama’s Libya policy, and Olbermann, perhaps uncharacteristically, kept the hyperbole to a minimum, and delivered some of the most clear-eyed criticism I’ve seen since the unrest in Libya began.
As I’ve noted several times, criticism of President Obama’s Libya policy has been almost universally nonsensical and self-contradictory. By contrast, Olbermann’s special comment was (mostly) focused, eschewing both the wild-eyed calls for impeachment, and the insistence that the President should have either done it quicker or waited for Congress. Instead, he places the current action in proper context by assessing the undeclared war table that has been set by presidents dating back generations, and invokes the war powers equivalent of the “5 second rule.”
Whether you agree with him or not, his premise, that Obama follow some pretty well-established precedent by going to Congress for approval if this thing drags on very long, is a lot more reasonable than much of what I’ve been hearing, from either side. His roundup of the administration’s mixed signals on Libya is accurate, although it ignores the diplomatic subtexts involved. The President and his advisers have several key audiences to deliver messages to (including the disparate international entities Olbermann names, the American people, the Libyan rebels, and of course, Gaddafi), and threading that kind of needle is bound to sound confusing.
In the final analysis, though, the results will speak for themselves. If the US gets bogged down in Libya, and if Gaddafi keeps his skin yet again, all of the critics will look like geniuses.
Where Olbermann strays a bit is in trying to devise a one-size-fits-all formula for this kind of intervention, or in believing that this is possible, or desirable.
From a production standpoint, regular Countdown viewers will be disappointed in the web version’s one-camera structure, making Olbermann’s trademark look-down/head-turn impossible.
Here’s the clip, from FOK News Channel:
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