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 TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics with Congressional Quarterly

The year of living foolishly

By Keith Olbermann

February 1, 1999
Web posted at: 12:40 p.m. EDT (1240 GMT)

TIME magazine

I am at a creaky lectern in front of a crowd of fidgeting guys wearing see-through earphones and bad ties, their heavily made-up faces hidden as they hang their heads in shame and prurient interest.

"Hi," I finally say, clearing my throat several times before I can resume. "My name is Keith, and I'm ... I'm ... I'm a recovering political-talk-show host."

"Hi, Keith," my fellow members say, but not in unison. All of them overlap, just like on their shows.

"It's been one month and 20 days since my last show," I say. "It's been so long they've already replaced my replacement. It's been really tough, man. The day the Congressman from Clinton's district, Jay Dickey, completely screwed up the Shoeless Joe Jackson anecdote during the impeachment debate? I nearly called in to Larry King." I begin to sniffle. "I phoned an all-news radio station as an eyewitness to a high-rise fire ... and then I saw three guys arguing on a corner, and I interrupted them by shouting, 'We'll be right back; we'll be right back!' I don't know if I'm going to make it, man ..."

All right, withdrawing just as the process reached its far-fetched and uninspiring conclusion wasn't that hard. It always worked for the President, after all. Since you'll be joining me in Impeachment Commentators Anonymous sooner rather than later, you should be encouraged by the ease of the first step. I'll confess, the day a month ago when the President came out into the Rose Garden for his last apology and slightly brushed one of the columns and nobody but me seemed to notice, I had this fleeting wish to be on msnbc again, to have my director run the videotape again and again while I blistered the Congress for turning Bill Clinton into the new Gerald Ford.

But other than that, I haven't missed it, even the spectacle of impeachment or the trial or Sammy Sosa's getting a bigger hand during the State of the Union than the "U.S.A." savings idea did or that 1955 Dave Garroway 10-lb. microphone Senator Byrd likes to wear. After 228 consecutive shows that were wholly or mostly Monica, last year feels like a rip in the space-time continuum, a historical skid as inexplicable as the election of 1876 or the hairstyle you wore in 1982.

Maybe it shouldn't feel that way to me or to anybody else. Maybe I should have stepped back and become enraged or entertained or at least a libertarian. Yet it seems that from even a little distance, the picture is pretty easy to discern: the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton is as interesting to Americans as is Major League Soccer.

Never would I deny that I slipped quickly in and out of the minority and thus fraudulently did my show for months, barely able to concentrate on whether Tony Blankley and John Dean really would explain the latest White House strategy after the next commercial. Sorry to say, but the Clintons, Lewinskys, Starrs, Goldbergs et al. left no indelible mark on my psyche. I'm a sportscaster again and damned happy living out there in Los Angeles.

Well, Santa Monica, actually. Coincidence. I think.

Keith Olbermann is an anchor at Fox Sports News.


Cover Date: February 8, 1998

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