10.23.2009

STRATEGIC BLUNDER

BY CINCINNATUS

By now everyone is well aware of the concerted effort by the White House to marginalize Fox News and other conservative voices of opposition in the media. You know this because the White House has made no secret of it; nay, they have gone out of their way to make sure you know it. In a new strategy to “defend” the White House’s agenda and message, senior aides and officials have been touring the major Sunday news shows (except for Fox News, of course) and delivering cold pricklies about the legitimacy of said cable news network. David Axelrod has characterized Fox as “not really a news station.” Said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in an interview on CNN with John King (a legitimate news organization):

“I suppose the way to look at it, and the way we, the President looks at it, we look at it is it's [Fox News] not a news organization so much as it has a perspective. And that's a different take. And more importantly is not to have the CNN's and the others in the world basically be led and following Fox as if that what they're trying to do is a legitimate news organization in the sense of both sides' sense of a valued opinion.”

But the most in-depth and telling statements have come from White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, who cautioned Americans to “not pretend they’re [Fox News] a news organization like CNN.” Considering the blatantly leftward slant of CNN and its founder, Ted Turner, I would recommend Anita and Rahm link up to compare notes as to whether that statement amounts to a flawed comparison. Dunn took her criticism even further by saying:

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological… what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”

This tactic on the part of the White House is doomed to miserable failure, and I disdain it not so much out of any ideological sympathies, but rather on purely intellectual grounds. This strategy is dumb. First, the argument that Fox News is illegitimate because of a partisan slant is disingenuous, ridiculous and just plain whiny. It doesn’t stand up to even the most minute of intelligent scrutiny. Second, the White House can offer no solution to these complaints they’ve raised without sounding like they are suppressing free speech. As even some left-leaning news media outlets have begun to point out, the White House strategy smacks of the sort of hardball played by the Dark Lord of politics himself, Richard Nixon.

To say that Fox News has a partisan slant is not necessarily an earth-shattering revelation. Indeed, most rational people understand that. Just as they understand that most of the rest of the 24-hour news outlets available to them, such as MSNBC and CNN, tend to lean decidedly left. So what is the goal for the White House? To inform the public and steer them away from Fox News? Please. People know what they get when they turn it on, and they still watch in droves, more so than any other news programming out there. All that is accomplished by this blatant, bungling assault is establishing Fox News as the leading voice of opposition to the Obama administration and laying bare the White House’s pathetic inability to cope with that lonely voice of criticism. Furthermore, by Rahm Emanuel’s flimsy definition of what constitutes a “news organization,” every major media outlet save perhaps C-SPAN (sans commentary) is disqualified. The American people don’t mind having their news colored with comment and opinion. In fact, they seem to demand it. Otherwise Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck would be penniless.

President Obama, who won election on the promise of bridging the partisan gap, stands to lose a great deal from this confrontation. Fox News isn’t going to roll over and play dead for the White House as other news organizations have. They intend to fight back, and this should concern the president’s political advisors greatly. The president may be the president, but even he can’t saturate Americans with his message 24-7, as Roger Ailes can. And Obama may be antagonizing his biggest ally by bullying Fox News in this undignified fashion: the media at large. The White House’s ham-handed attempt to exclude Fox News from having access to interview pay czar Ken Feinberg with the complicity of ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN backfired when those four news outlets refused to participate in the interviews unless Fox News was also allowed in (see
here). After the rebuke, the White House backed off and has since refrained from overt attempts to deny Fox News access. This event was instructive: President Obama, for once, cannot count on the support of his news media sympathizers to ostracize Fox. In fact, he has succeeded in broadening criticism of his tactic to those very organizations, who are speaking out against the executive branch bullying journalists.

For now it looks like the White House may be pumping the brakes on its attack strategy against Fox, which is wise politically. How they ever convinced themselves that it would work in the first place is beyond comprehension and reflects even more poorly on Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. They have cost their president some serious political capital with this maneuver at a time when he needs just about all he can get.

1 comment:

Timothy Butcher said...

This is just a diversionary tactic by the Adminstration to keep the focus off his failures.