THE BLOG
04/24/2009 10:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Keith Olbermann and Lawrence O'Donnell Do Not Take Torture Seriously

Keith Olbermann long ago raised vamping to a high art. Originally, a steadfast, bold, refreshing and groundbreaking progressive voice for MSNBC, his Countdown show has devolved into a display of self-aggrandizing name calling featuring he, Rush, Bill (Billo'), and Sean, leaving us with, aside from that, a vacant hour of bloviating that demands increased worker compensation for the camera operators struck by flying spittle during Olbermann "special comments."

But last night, his show, with a major assist from MSNBC analyst and Huffington contributor, Lawrence O'Donnell, reached a low that they both should be embarrassed by.

Keith was exercised by the ignorant, inappropriate, giggling promise, offered by -- beneath-comment, elevated-by-any-comment -- Sean Hannity, that he would be willing to be waterboarded to benefit families of the troops. Charity torture, as it were. Keith then pumped up the silliness by offering $1,000 for every second Sean could put up with this.

Then, O'Donnell shows up. Thankfully, his grave visage seemed to suggest he was about to elevate the topic of torture out of "you-show-me-yours-I'll-show-you-mine."

But then... Keith: This pretty much proves it, doesn't it? Hannity and his fellow travelers do not take this topic seriously. O'Donnell: No they don't, and I know why. There is no question about it. The reason Sean Hannity thinks torture is a good idea, the reason Sean Hannity thinks it works, is because it would work on him."

Hold up...! Isn't the point that, in addition to disgracing America's good name -- we'll skip Allende, et al. -- torture doesn't work? Al Queda, Fox host, no one. Doesn't work. If it did, the argument over it would be considerably more complex. And, a happier one for the right-wing. Thankfully, on the very network that Olbermann and O'Donnell were getting it wrong, part of the day had been spent underlining the point that it doesn't work and so, not only does the end not justify the means... there is no "end."

O'Donnell went on to say that, "I am, like Sean Hannity, one of those cowards, just like Dick Cheney... who has refused throughout my life to... ever subject myself to..." military service/mortal danger. Now, the chickenhawk argument is a great one, but completely besides the point, in fact, deleterious to the point, here. The cavalcade of wrong-headedness continued with O'Donnell making the argument that torture would not work on al Queda, because they are tenaciously, suicidally committed to their cause. But, wait, once again. Isn't it, at the very least, unprovable by the spooks that poster boy for torture, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, even he, #2 majordomo of terrorism, gave us any usable intel... because if he'd offered a few words, after almost 200 dunkings, he'd offer any fairy tale the dunkers wanted to hear, because that's the outcome of torture - al-Queda or FOX host?

Where was Keith through all this? Following up. Figuring out how much money Hannity owes military families. Hannity. Hannity. Hannity. "Sean, we've both shown you ours, now you sure as hell better show us yours!"

If Hannity watched Countdown he can come back on his own show on FOX today and say, "see, even Olbermann and O'Donnell believe torture works on some people." And, sitting at home, legions of Hannity-ites can take comfort.

Olbermann got the first part right -- torture is a "serious stuff." As such, it deserves to be argued by those who will choose to discuss the logic of the case seriously, not confuse the issue by riffing on wrongheaded semi-comedic premises they thought of in the green room.