The 2016 presidential race is a historic one, Keith Olbermann says, dating back to at least the Civil War — but he’s not so sure that Republican candidate Donald Trump is a totally new phenomenon.
Speaking on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, Olbermann made a point of saying Trump didn’t rise to the top because CNN et al put him there. Political demagogues like Huey Long and Joe McCarthy lived before the era of cable TV, he said, and even great presidents like Abraham Lincoln have faced near-defeat at the polls.
“He was this personable individual who charmed everybody, and clearly, in retrospect, he was a psychopath, and he was just interested in power for its own sake," he said of Long. “There was no TV there, but there was radio, and just the power of his voice commanded people to say, ‘Maybe this is the solution to our crisis.’”
Lacking a crisis to exploit, Olbermann explained, Trump created one out of whole cloth, preying on fears more than reality.
“There are many things wrong in this country, but the bottom line, at its worst in the last 50 years, it’s been great,” he said. “Could we make it greater? Lots of different ways to make it greater. Many of them conservative, many of them liberal. It’s great. It doesn’t have to be ‘great again.’”
If it sounds like Olbermann has a lot to say about Trump, that’s no accident. The former “Sportscenter” and “Countdown” anchor is now hosting an online video series called “The Closer” for GQ. The Republican nominee is a seemingly endless source of material for the host’s ire:
On the new podcast, he praised the work of field reporters covering the Trump and Clinton campaigns, but raged against desk-bound analysts who are behaving as if it’s an ordinary election year.
“If you had a tsunami every day, how good would your coverage of the tsunami every day be?” Olbermann asked. “Frankly, many of the people who went out to cover the first one didn’t come back. I hate to be as blunt in that imagery, but that’s what you’re seeing.”
“If we were invaded, the parallel to this coverage would be, ‘Let’s discuss whether or not there might be something good about the Russians coming in via Alaska as they move down the Canadian west coast,’” he added.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.