There’s been some hot topics in the couple days that I’ve been away, including Obama‘s war on Fox News. There’s been a lot of good stuff written about this, and it’s generally falling into two categories:
1) It’s not right, and or not presidential. All of the right and a lot of the middle is saying this.
2) Whether it’s right or not, it’s not politically adviseable. Generally I’m seeing this from more left-leaning sources, but I think this could be emphasized by anyone.
There have also been a couple pieces from some genuinely far left sources, falling into a third category defending the action.
Here’s my quick take:
A couple days after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, presumably for signaling his willingness to talk to the world’s anti-democratic, anti-American thugs, Obama wages war on an American press outlet.
I’ve not heard a lot of direct criticism of FNC reporters by the White House, or even of specific FNC anchors. In fact, when asked by veteran media observer Howard Kurtz whether a reporter like Major Garret was an objective journalist, White House communications director/Mao Zedong admirer Anita Dunn replied in the affirmative. Presumably then, much of what the White House objects to is the commentary, or editorial content of the station.
(Of course, for years liberals have also complained more generally about the channel’s news product. However, a major study by Jeffrey Milyo* and Tim Groseclose several years ago actually documented that “Special Report,” the channel’s main evening news program, was among the closest to the ideological center of all the major news sources they examined, along with “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer*” and a couple others. And Hillary Clinton would have told you during the primary that it was Fox News where she got the fairest shake from the media. It has long been my view that while FNC does lean right, it certainly leans no more in that direction than any of its competitors lean to the left. But I digress).
So, what are we to make of the White House’s decision to target and attack Fox News based in large part on its opinion-programming? Like so much from this White House, it is petty and pedantic, political and partisan. Dressed up, of course, in principled pragmatism.
Of all the broadcast, satellite or cable television stations in the country, there is none like Fox News, whose dynamic and popular on-air talent regularly question and aggressively criticize the president. So by targeting the network, the White House – whose occupant ran on the idea of bringing people together, laughably disingenuous though it was – signals that it will not tolerate a single such voice of dissent. Instead, the president’s operatives will fan out in an attempt to discredit and marginalize the “enemy”.
Folks, this is our president. This is his White House. This is his administration. This is the America he seeks to remake. It is inappropriate behavior, to say the least.
Now, as a pure political matter, I do believe this results in a net loss for Obama, in the short, medium and long term.
Firstly, you lose the biggest audience in cable news. Yeah, a lot of them weren’t with you to begin with, but a few of them were and a good chunk of them could go either way. Contrary to what some liberal commentators might have you believe, Fox does indeed draw more than just die-hard conservatives. It’s #1 for a reason.
Second, anytime you go negative, there’s always a splash. Meaning you get wet, too. You normally think of this in application to going negative with campaign commercials, but this is essentially the same thing. It tarnishes him. Because people instinctively know that it’s unpresidential; that it is a misuse of the majesty of the office.
Thirdly, it raises FNC’s profile. As could be expected from anyone, but particularly the ever-savvy Murdoch, Fox is playing this up big time. And they should. Not only because it’s their right and their story, but because it is in fact a big deal.
Fourthly – and this is related to point one – you harden FNC’s conservative base even more against you. You fire them up. They didn’t care for you to begin with. Now you’ve more than cemented the notion that you have something against them; you’ve straight up called them the enemy. So now you’re the enemy.This is exactly the sort of thing that gins up turnout in midterms.
So, long story short, while the president’s actions are alarming, they will also come back to bite him in the end.
* University of Missouri grads:)