Thanks to a comment from IDP, we can think more about Reconstruction, tone, worst presidents, and enjoy a little Keith Olbermann. Bill Moyers asks Olbermann, on behalf of a young member of his staff, are you any better than they are, with your vituperation? Olbermann (with video under the fold):

it’s the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We’re doing the same thing. It is– it becomes a nation of screechers. It’s never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. I would like nothing better than to go back and do maybe a sportscast every night. But I think the stuff that I’m talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history that this era will be looked at the way we look now at the– at the presidents and the– the leaders of this country who rolled back reconstruction // I think it’s that obvious. And I think only under those circumstances would I go this far out on a limb and be this vociferous about it.

Olbermann says here some things that absolutely resonate with me and one that falls piously flat.

(1) I too hate how this administration’s astonishingly consistent incompetence forces so many of us to pay attention to this administration. I would rather not. I liked how, in the Clinton era, I could confidently assume that, barring a few messes at the margins — which the press would catch and make a big deal out of — I didn’t have to worry that the the White House was going to fumble every little thing. But now we all have to operate under the assumption that they will spoil even the things they’d ostensibly like to carry off properly — like the mortgage bailout.

(2) If you think we’re living through a period of epic mismanagement whose consequences will revisit us for centuries to come, the only period in American history you can gesture to as an equivalent is Reconstruction. (Olbermann evidently went to some lectures.) Under Johnson, especially, almost every wrong decision that could have been made was made, from hasty pardons and troop withdrawals to the Supreme Court’s casual gutting of the Reconstruction Amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 — that was a disastrous era that bought us a century of Jim Crow and the wrenching 1960s, whose consequences still hang over us today. God helping us, the current crisis won’t be so awful. But if you want a touchstone for awful, Reconstruction is it.

And then there is the point on which I disagree with Olbermann: the assumption of the question he’s asked, that the screechers prevent us finding common ground, is I fear baseless. Didn’t the impeachment teach us that? You can elect a hawkish right-wing redneck Democrat with a notsogreat record on all kinds of liberal issues and the ability to speak mollifying platitudes till the cows come home, and the Republicans will still come at him with everything they have. There isn’t common ground to find. That doesn’t mean you have to yell a lot. But it does mean you don’t have to feel guilty about using such earned severity as you can muster.