What's remarkable about Maddow's ascension is not its velocity -- Hurricane Katrina made Anderson Cooper in less than a week -- but the shifts in media it may demarcate. Maddow is one of the few left-liberal women to bust open the world of TV punditry, which has made icons of right-wing commentators like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Unlike her beautiful, bilious conservative female counterparts or the cocksure boys-on-the-bus analysts, however, Maddow didn't get here by bluster and bravado but with a combination of crisp thinking and galumphing good cheer. Remarkably, this season's discovery isn't a glossy matinee idol or a smooth-talking partisan hack but a PhD Rhodes scholar lesbian policy wonk who started as a prison AIDS activist.
Over the past couple years, I've become a huge fan of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Sure, it's no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of Olbermann, and that I have been going back years to his reign at ESPN. More and more, though, I find myself looking forward to Olbermann's occasional pas de deux with Rachel Maddow, who's become a refreshing change from most of the self-absorbed, ego-driven bloviators who pass themselves off as political pundits. Whip-smart, articulate, and just plain...well, nice...Maddow has demonstrated herself to be a prescient analyst devoid of the self-promotional bombast so typical of modern talking heads (et tu, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly??).
When the best her detractors can come up with is, "Butbutbut...SHE'S A LESBIAN!!...well, you have to know she's on to something, eh?
[D]oes Maddow's unlikely success, reliant on her ability to defy clich‚àö¬© and categorization at every turn, signal a move in punditry away from the thuggish and the angry and toward the lucid and sophisticated? Or has her powerful charisma and canny career management allowed her to break the rules -- without actually breaking a mold?
Who knows...and, as far as I'm concerned, who cares? I just find it refreshing to listen to a personality who is far more analyst than pundit, an intellect who can calmly and lucidly skewer Right-wing lunacy and expose Conservatives for being the brain-dead zealots they are...all without raising her voice or wallowing in righteous indignation (Sadly, I think yours truly could learn a thing or six from Ms. Maddow). She's ambitious without being cutthroat, brilliant without being overbearing, talented without being insufferable.
Twenty years ago, television wouldn't have touched Maddow with a ten-foot pole. Thankfully, it appears that corporate media (or at least MSNBC) is will to look past her "liabilities" (not that her lifestyle and sexuality can, or should, reasonably be called liabilities)...and demonstrate that there is a place for a woman who's every bit as intelligent, reasonable, and...well, nice...as just about every other pundit isn't.
Would that more political analysts relied less on ego and bombast and took a cue from Maddow and her attachment to substance. You don't have to be a self-important, ego-driven, self-promoting @$$hole in order to get attention. Sometimes, being intelligent, articulate, and spot-on in your analysis will get you every bit as far...at the cost of a whole lot less spent energy.
You go, girl.... ;-)