I've written about the horrors of not changing the channel immediately after Olbermann before, but last night, I thought I was safe. It was only the post-debate show following an AFL-CIO Presidential Forum on MSNBC moderated by Olbermann himself (and moderated extremely well, might I add, but then KO's been my boy for about 15 years now, so I'm kind of biased.)
I should have known to jam my fingers on the remote as soon as Buchanan's mug sullied the screen. I should have known he's the harbinger of bad tidings. But no, I pressed on. And on, as Chris Matthews pressed his panelists hard to tell us who "won" the debate, and used terms like "home-field advantage" in an apparent attempt to confuse Olbermann into thinking he was back on SportsCenter. But then things turned even more inane than the Barry Bonds question posed to Barack Obama.
The panelists started analyzing Hillary's accent. I swear. It went like this:
Eugene Robinson, columnist for The Washington Post: Did you notice though that when she's the former Arkansas first lady, she has the southern drawl.
Matthews: Did you notice the Chic-ah-go? That little Chic-ah-go there?
Robinson: Well, she's from there, so she earned that. But it really came back, it was very strong tonight.
Matthews: That "ah" sound that I of course got to know through my father in law, but the fact is, she's very good.
Robinson: It's called a Midwestern twang.
To be fair, Matthews and Robinson had wry smiles on their faces when they were saying this, but I got the sense that this exchange was only halfway tongue-in-cheek, to use my own pun. I was really waiting for Buchanan or former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown to pipe in with a "And you know, it was really critical for Obama to avoid the sibilant S there, and he did, which was really good," or "Joe Biden made a few brief whistling sounds on some long vowels. I think he may have had a canker sore."
The panel had just finished an analysis of the way Hillary was able to keep the tonality of her voice even despite the difficult acoustics of cavernous Soldier Field, and the way Edwards seems much better in front of 200 than 20,000.
It makes me wonder why Vin Scully has never made a run for president. Smooth voice, gracious in front of radio AND television audiences, and the ability to quote the hometowns of the Los Angeles Dodgers night after night as though he were your senile uncle sitting across the dinner table. Truly in the mold of The Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan.
Is it just me, or does it sound like we may have strayed a bit too far from our democracy here? There is not yet a word in the English language for a system of government that selects its best orator as imperial leader, but may I suggest Toastmastocracy?