IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

Keith Olbermann blogs: " Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom.


Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential.  Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords. 

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening.  We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it. 

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

Comments? Email

Aug. 30, 2006 |

Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once again attacked Administration critics, asserting those questioning its Iraq and anti-terror policies are trying to appease "a new type of fascism,"  calling them  sufferers of "moral or intellectual confusion."

Tonight, Keith Olbermann returns to “Countdown” with a special commentary on Rumsfeld’s remarks. You can catch Olbermann’s full response at 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC, but here’s a sneak peek:

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence - indeed, the loyalty—of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land;

Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants - our employees—with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom;   

And not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile… it is right—and the power to which it speaks, is wrong."

Comments? Email

June 7, 2006 | 6:25 p.m. ET

Now, this is a real scandal
(Keith Olbermann)

It is the “Perfect Storm” of baseball scandals.

It has the potential to make the Barry Bonds steroid scandal look like an isolated incident and the disastrous congressional hearing of last year — the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre — look like a couple of guys who missed the cup while giving their urine samples.

Federal agents raided the home of a 15-year veteran pitcher, seeking evidence that might identify him as a distributor of an illegal performance-enhancing drug, human growth hormone.

Worse yet, the pitcher has played with seven different clubs and been a teammate of seemingly everybody in the big leagues. And perhaps worst of all — the pitcher has family, and financial ties — to the medical industry.

He is Jason Grimsley, who, until the story broke this morning, was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In April, agents — led by an IRS special investigator — had found a shipment of HGH — human growth hormone — in Grimsley’s home. They said that at that time he had cooperated — confessed to using it, and steroids, and amphetamines. He named other players whom he suspected of being users and suppliers. He even phoned his supplier of HGH and let the feds listen in.

Jason Grimsley has appeared with seven different teams over his 15 seasons. The variety of his teammates makes him a veritable Forrest Gump of the big leagues. In his early days with the Phillies, he was a teammate of stars like Darren Daulton, Len Dykstra and John Kruk. He spent three years with the Cleveland Indians — and the likes of Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. There was a season with the Angels, where he overlapped with such stars as Jim Edmonds, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Troy Percival and Garrett Anderson. There were two years with the world champion New York Yankees of 1999 and 2000 — and teammates like Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams. Then, 3½ seasons in Kansas City, alongside Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney. And a season and a half in Baltimore as a teammate of Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.

All before he joined the Diamondbacks this season and, then, Tuesday night, asked for his release and told his teammates that he had “too much respect for [them] to allow this to bring us down” — quoting Arizona pitcher Terry Mulholland.

And then there’s the final shoe here. I have known Jason Grimsley for years and consider him a “baseball friend.”

In my last conversation with him at a stadium, a colleague who had joined us on the bench asked if Grimsley had made any plans for the day his career ended — since so many players made none and lived to regret it.

“Baseball’s basically been a hobby for me for several years,” he told us. “A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law convinced me to invest with him in his business. I gave him half of my net worth. My wife thought I was nuts. The other day he turned down an offer for the company.”

I believe the figure he quoted was in the hundreds of millions of dollars — I’m thinking it was around 350 million.

Innocently, I asked Grimsley what kind of company it was.

It was a medical firm, he said, involving pharmaceuticals and record-keeping.

That creaking you heard was the sound of Pandora’s Box opening.

Comments? Email

May 1, 2006 | 11:40 a.m ET

Yankees and Red Sox - and Damon (Keith Olbermann)

NEW YORK - His team was up by ten runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and he'd already hit two homers, scored four runs, and taken one curtain call. So, Johnny Damon of the New York Yankees could've been forgiven if he didn't bust his hump when he launched a routine (albeit sky-high) pop-up high above the head of Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill on Saturday.

Johnny Damon could've been forgiven by everybody except Johnny Damon.

The ball - of course - plopped out of Hill's glove, by which time Damon was perched on second base. He had run it out. With a ten run lead. After two homers. Just in case.

In the Yankees' dugout, manager Joe Torre took the unusual step of getting his entire team's attention. "Look where Johnny is."

There were a lot of headlines in the game. The Yankees scored in every inning for the first time since the month Lou Gehrig announced he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Toronto's Yankee-killer Shea Hillenbrand nearly assumed that title literally when he and Gary Sheffield went sprawling after a collision at first base. Randy Johnson pitched like Randy Johnson - unfortunately the other Randy Johnson who briefly played third base for the Braves in the '80s and will turn 50 this summer.

But Damon stole the show. "When he came back in after scoring, I shook his hand," Torre continued. "That's what we get from him. He'll tell you: 'You never know.'"

A minute later Damon told me, "You never know."

That's the backdrop as the Yankees and the Red Sox meet this week in Boston, for the first time this season. That's what Damon's jump from Boston to the Bronx literally means - a can of the Red Bull of hustle that is no longer in the Red Sox line-up, and instead is in the Yankee one.

Much is yet to shake out among these two clubs (and their potential challengers from Toronto), but the Damon dynamic is pretty much understood now. He's running out pop flies, with two homers and four runs under his belt, and his team up 16-to-6 and needing just three outs to win, because you never know. It's the American League. Somebody - like the Blue Jays or the Red Sox - could score ten in the top of the ninth. And if that happens and you're Johnny Damon, you just preserved a 17-16 win by running out that easy pop fly.

And don't think this is a totally theoretical pie-in-the-sky pop-in-the-sky scenario. Not two hours after Damon's textbook hustle, a very promising young second baseman named Kevin Frandsen came to the plate for the San Francisco Giants. Just like Damon, it was in the bottom of the eighth. Unlike Damon's Yankees, the Giants were tied 2-2 with Arizona, with nobody out, and Omar Vizquel at first as the potential lead run.

Frandsen - in his second big league game - sent a pop 'up the chute' as they used to say. Straight up, almost directly over home plate. And what did he do? He stood there. Arizona catcher Chris Snyder - deliberately or otherwise - let the ball drop, and fired to second to retire Vizquel. The return throw beat Frandsen to first for the doubleplay, probably because Frandsen was still standing at the plate.

Having wiped out the chance at a Giants' lead, Frandsen went to the dugout bench and buried his head in his hands. He looks like a Damon - like every other day in his life he's hustled even when the odds said there was no reason to hustle. Maybe that got him off the hook; Moises Alou homered in the bottom of the 9th and the Giants won anyway.

But nobody gushed about how Frandsen had ran out that routine pop fly. Meanwhile in New York, the Yankees readied for the Red Sox by noting that the last American League to score in every inning before they did it, had been the 1998 Kansas City Royals, whose centerfielder just happened to be Johnny Damon.


Postscript: By the way, speaking of baseball and with Graduation and Father's Day gifting coming up, you could do no better than a new book by Peter Morris. A Game Of Inches (Ivan R. Dee, Publisher) is an astonishingly well-researched history of the evolutions of almost every facet of the game. You will be amazed at the amount of accepted knowledge that Morris disproves: Lou Boudreau did not invent the infield shift we see today for so many lefthanded batters in order to stymie Ted Williams - versions of it date back to 1877. And the entire story of the creation of the "Louisville Slugger" bat for 19th Century idol Pete Browning turns out to be pure mythology. I must have learned at least 100 things I didn't know about baseball history - and at my age, that's a lot. I think I'm going to have to start taking a copy with me to games - that's how useful it is.

Comments? Email

April 13, 2006 | 10:15 a.m. ET

What I did on my spring non-vacation, or: Baseball 2006 preview, Part Six (Keith Olbermann)

NEW YORK - Thank goodness for Barry Bonds.

You heard me.

Face it, were it not for the race-against-time (“which will give way first? Aaron’s record? The Mitchell Committee’s Mandate? Barry’s knees? Barry’s alibis? Barry’s ability to summon tears on cue for television?”), what would we have to watch in the National League West? Four teams desperately struggling to earn the right to get swept in the N.L. Division Series again - possibly without scoring a run?

It’s pretty pathetic there. The Padres might be able to watch 6’10” righty Michael Young or ex-Devil Ray Dewon Brazelton turn into a star. Dodgers’ fragile newcomers Sandy Alomar, Nomar Garciaparra, and Kenny Lofton could combine with Eric Gagne, J.D. Drew and other veterans to exhaust trainer Stan Johnston. The Giants can boast of five outfielders so ancient that, when he turns 32 in June, Randy Winn will still be the baby of the group. And the interchangeable Diamondbacks and Rockies have, as usual, produced an entire team of can’t-miss-prospects to replace last season’s entire team of can’t miss-prospects (out with Vazquez, in with Vizcaino; out with Jamey Wright; in with Jaime Cerda), and between them return exactly two pitchers who won more than eight games for them last year.

The division is so sour (although the Dodgers could be significantly better than the rest, and if first baseman James Loney, catcher Russell Martin, and outfielder Andre Ethier emerge this year or next, they may develop a mini-dynasty) that it is almost worth exploring if four of its members couldn’t swap places with two-thirds of the N.L. Central, thus allowing the Brewers and Astros to fight it out in that grouping, and the Cardinals and Cubs to try to keep Cincinnati and Pittsburgh at bay in the West.

None of the 2006 N.L. West teams would even be a bona fide Wild Card contender in any other configuration. It’s startling-- nearly as startling as a possible outcome to the Bonds drama that we never considered: the prospect that his first week's goose egg in the homer department would project out to leaving Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron untouched on the all-time home run list. If Bonds' power drain were to get worse, in fact, he might have to give a lot of his homers back -- a perfect solution to the conundrum of what to do with his tainted totals.

The N.L. West (acknowledging it doesn’t much matter, and one trade or injury could make or break any of these teams): Padres, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies.

N.L. MVP: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (unless you want to take the easy choice of Albert Pujols). Cy Young Winner: Chris Capuano, Milwaukee (safety: Andy Pettitte, Houston). Rookie Of The Year: actually, this’ll be a better race than the N.L. West: Fielder of Milwaukee; Zimmerman of Washington; Hermida, Jacobs, Ramirez and Willingham of Florida - go with the safety, Jeremy Hermida.

Comments? Email