Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's loudest, angriest, not-votingest, network-controllingest personality, just signed a sweet new deal. It's a four-year extension of his Countdown show, with two NBC specials and occasional nightly news "essays." It's also worth $30 million! Good work Keith! It was bound to happen, as MSNBC's ratings were way up this election cycle, and Olbermann's show is now a vital part of the network's brand. But it was also brilliant of Olbermann to get the deal now, because there's a good chance he's peaked. Keith Olbermann became the voice of Bush's second term. After eking out a narrow victory and calling it a mandate, the President really outdid himself. The war went to hell, the lies that got us into the war were further aired out, the details of his various unconstitutional surveillance programs came to light, the ideological disdain for effective governance and the bubble of true believers led to the Katrina disaster, and America basically got a serious case of buyers' remorse. One guy on TV sounded as perpetually pissed off and outraged as you did, from 2003 onward: Keith Olbermann! His newfound glee at casting moral judgment on the mendacity of the lunatics in charge was, you know, refreshing after a couple years of the newsmedia wandering in the post-9/11 desert of breathless Bush-worship. Everyone felt kinda bad for selling that stupid and pointless war, but no one quite wanted to be the first to go whole-hog anti-authority. But Olbermann's voice of the opposition was the best thing on TV, leading right up to the 2006 midterms, when America first wholly rejected the Republican party. But now we've just had an election about Hope and Change, and the new guy in charge is not a fire-breathing pissed-off Howard Dean, but a calm and cool unifier promising to bring dispassionate rationality back to the White House. Meanwhile at MSNBC, Olbermann's charming protege is a Rhodes Scholar who's specifically pledged never to have more than one guest on at a time, because shouting and argument and cross-talk don't actually advance the discussion. Rachel Maddow's ratings are phenomenal, and every month there's a new fawning profile of her showcasing how... normal (and nice!) she is. If Olbermann was the voice of the opposition, Maddow is the voice of the new liberals in charge. It won't necessarily diminish Olbermann's popularity and influence (or even his ratings), but he's not on top of the zeitgeist anymore. Let's pray for a great 2012 race to get him across that next contract renegotiation hump. Gingrich/Palin '12!
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