Block Bluster

Trump is F*cking Crazy: (This is Not a Joke) BY Keith Olbermann. Blue Rider Press. Hardcover, 448 pages. $27.

The cover of Trump is F*cking Crazy: (This is Not a Joke)

“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation,” W. C. Fields supposedly said. A title like Trump Is F✳︎cking Crazy (This Is Not a Joke) (Blue Rider Press, $27) certainly does that. What it doesn’t do is inspire much confidence that the crass political discourse the Trump era has fostered will turn chockablock with bonhomie anytime soon. But Keith Olbermann doubtless thinks he’s fighting fire with fire.

MSNBC’s former Countdown panjandrum has certainly accepted and even thrived on the idea that he was born to put the tribe back in diatribe. Olbermann’s GQ web show, originally titled The Closer but redubbed The Resistance after Election Day, debuted in September 2016. This book consists of over one hundred transcripts of his anti-Trump rants from the Condé Nast terrordome, and they certainly haven’t been edited for second thoughts or quality control. Or edited at all, so far as I can tell.

For anyone who can’t stand Olbermann’s mania for overreaching to the choir, one initial plus of the print version is that books are mute. We don’t have to listen to those grandstanding vocal cords mimicking Tchaikovsky kettledrums with an accusatory fervor that would have gotten him laughed offstage in a high school production of Witness for the Prosecution. Nor do we have to watch those tense jowls bunch into tank treads while his nose mimics a gun turret and his somehow stentorian eyes glare like periscopes rooting out Nazi snipers.

Still, Trump Is F✳︎cking Crazy may give you a reluctant appreciation of Olbermann’s operatic gifts as a performance artist, so nicely skewered by Ben Affleck on SNL years ago. Bereft of his visual and sonic histrionics, his baleful monologues turn out to be awfully monotonous. They are, in fact . . . tedious! . . . Olbermann. That’s my cheerful imitation of the dramatic pauses and emphases that the text’s confetti of ellipses and italics all too faithfully facsimilizes, along with Keith’s Grand Inquisitor habit of calling out Trump directly by last name only.

If his fans want to buy a tchotchke whose ownership and proud display testify that they, too, are members of the Resistance—and that’s this book’s only reason for being—wouldn’t a DVD box set have done better at delivering the full monty? Plowing through more than four hundred pages of his blunderbuss guff has an effect that’s frequently nothing short of miasmal.

That’s hardly because I disagree with him that America’s forty-fifth president is a menace to democracy (amply demonstrated), so corrupt he could give workaday heist flicks a bad name (we’re mostly numb to that by now), most likely cuckoo (Olbermann is good at dismantling the lunacy evident in Trump’s tweetstorms), and fatally tainted by his compromising Russian connection. To Olbermann’s credit, Russiagate put the pepper up his nostrils early on. He’s often at his best—and most convincingly patriotic—when he’s reminding his audience that tolerating a hostile foreign power’s interference in our elections has ramifications well beyond merely abetting Trump’s win.

At times, the unrevised nature of this material even has a modest value. We’ve all been so inundated with Trumplandia’s horrors since last November that having them reprised as they unfolded is a bracing reminder of how many ugly specifics have already receded into a collective blur. However, the book also preserves Olbermann’s mistaken predictions, from his Cassandra-ish guess that the (disastrous) “economic impacts” of Trump’s victory would “be felt long before the inauguration”—in fact, the economy is still placidly humming along, though nobody knows why—to a raft of premature ejaculations along the lines of “Trump is finished” or “Trump is panicking.” As early as April, Olbermann had begun to sound like the Boy Who Cried Wolf Blitzer.

In at least one case, his unwillingness to correct his blatherfests—or perhaps even reread them—leads him to perpetuate a calumny. He claims that the then incoming, since disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn was among the “jackasses” who spread the fake news online of Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the (nonexistent) Pizzagate child-sex ring, but that was actually Flynn’s son. Other media outlets that had gotten the two confused quickly recanted, but not Keith. In other words, unless the error is fixed before publication, Dad is now in a position to sue Olbermann for libel. It’s just lucky that Flynn Senior probably expects to be inside too many courtrooms soon to want to add another.

It turns out that shipping Trump Is F✳︎cking Crazy off to Olbermann’s breathless fan clique without emendations or basic fact-checking is a form of slovenliness totally in sync with the book’s most suffocating trait: Olbermann’s unendurable self-importance. “I don’t want to be at the forefront of the resistance,” he mopes in one postelection web show, but who besides himself declared him to be any such thing? He also wants us to know he’s an old hand at being in the vanguard, reminiscing that Fox was smoking the competition in the George W. Bush era until “some guy at MSNBC said, ‘The emperor is not wearing any clothes!,’ and all of a sudden the truth started pouring out and the hundreds of millions of dollars of profit started pouring in.” He boasts in two separate instances about his GQ series topping a hundred million views as of January 2017.

You can’t help waiting for him to come out and say, “I alone can fix it.” Honestly, does this sort of braggadocio ever remind Olbermann of someone—his book’s subject, for instance? Does happily substituting insults and random rancor for arguments ring even a faint bell in Keithlandia? I never thought I’d say this about anyone, because some curses are just too malignant. But it could be that Olbermann and Donald Trump deserve each other.

Tom Carson is a freelance critic and the author of the novels Gilligan’s Wake (Picador, 2003) and Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter (Paycock, 2011).