Free Markets, Free People
White House Losing War On Fox News (updated)
The Obama administration is not doing well in two wars right now – a shooting war and a shouting war. Afghanistan continues on a downhill course while the president dithers, apparently incapable of making a decision. And on another front, he and the White House are looking both petty and foolish as they attack Fox News (one of the few things they’ve actually done during their time in office).
Tom Bevan makes some interesting points covering the latter war. Quoting Rahm Emanuel who said “The way the president looks at it – we look at it – it’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective”, Bevan says:
And MSNBC doesn’t push a certain “perspective?” What about the New York Times? The idea that FOX News’s perspective disqualifies it as a “legitimate” news operation lays bare the manipulation and hypocrisy at work here. The White House is all for news organizations taking certain “perspectives” – so long as they’re favorable to the administration’s agenda.
The current presidency, as much perhaps as any in history, is built upon the foundation of the President’s personal popularity. President Obama has, out of necessity, become the Salesman-in-Chief for his progressive agenda. But as the White House continues to struggle adjusting to the reality of governing versus campaigning, it is either unwilling or unable to brook criticism of the President or his policies. Thus FOX News is targeted as the enemy.
As Bevan points out, it is a qualification without exception. All news organizations that I’m familiar with push a perspective – that can be found daily on their editorial pages or nightly on their opinion shows. The only difference between MSNBC and Fox is the “perspective” is favorable on the former and not as favorable on the latter.
And for most of America, who aren’t buying into the White House argument, there is no difference between MSNBC and Fox but their “perspective”. They’re quite aware both have them even if the White House enjoys pretending they don’t.
The second part of their ill conceived strategy is to try to delegitimize Fox News among other news organizations:
Axelrod went out of his way to suggest to Stephanopoulos that ABC News adopt the White House strategy and not treat FOX News as legitimate. “The bigger thing is,” Axelrod said, “other news organizations, like yours, ought not to treat them that way. We’re not going to treat them that way. ”
Emanuel suggested the same to John King later in their interview: “And more importantly is not have the CNN’s and others in the world basically be led and following FOX, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization, in the sense of both sides and a sense of valued opinion.”
That approach brought a reproach from the grand old dame of the White House news corps, Helen Thomas, who makes no bones about her liberal “perspective”. And Jake Tapper from ABC was unimpressed as well. Both find the strategy to be offensive, petty and inappropriate. So do most Americans.
The entire effort here is to cut Fox from the herd and isolate them (please review Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“, specifically rules 5, 8 and 12) and destroy their legitimacy. It isn’t working. In fact Fox is enjoying a surge in viewership and the White House is losing face by appearing petty and vindictive.
Such tactics may not be frowned upon by brass-knuckle operatives working for the political machine in a one party town. But it’s different when you’re the President of the United States. Most Americans of all political stripes don’t want to see the President using the majesty and power of his office for heavy handed attacks on any organization simply because it has been critical of the President.
Time for the White House to wave the white flag, call off the dogs and try to resurrect their flagging credibility. Meanwhile, Fox News should send Emanuel and Axelrod a nice little thank you note.
UPDATE: Allahpundit at Hot Air notes that this may all be about “containment”:
This seems so obviously correct that I feel embarrassed for not having figured it out sooner.
The rationale of the White House offensive against Fox News has been a topic of much puzzlement lately. Is this just the White House lashing out? Are they trying to rally the base?
But I think Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein nail the real explanation in their story today: The White House is working to prevent stories born on Fox from crossing over into more widely-viewed media. Most Americans still haven’t heard of Van Jones, for instance; and the strategy is now all about containment…
This makes sense in the wake of the Van Jones story and the fact that some talking heads at Fox are emboldened by the success of forcing Van Jones out of his position (consider the suddenly surfaced video of Anita Dunn praising Mao after she attacked Fox).
That sort of a strategy at least makes more sense than the trying to question the organization’s credibility because of their “perspective”. However it will most likely fail as well, since even to those organizations whose perspective they like, news is news and they are the ones who lose credibility if they don’t cover it (regardless of who uncovers it).
UPDATE II: Heh … “It’s a quagmire!”:
Despite the President’s promise of a swift and decisive victory, Obama’s War on Fox News has developed all signs of an unwinnable quagmire, making the White House even more isolated in its unilateral attempts to crush the growing media insurgency. As the war continues to grind on for a second month, public opinion is shifting towards a quick and complete withdrawal. While many observers still agree that the “War on Limbaugh” is a “just and necessary war,” even the former supporters of the war effort are now labeling the War on Fox an “unnecessary war of choice” and claim that the cable channel had nothing to do with Obama’s falling approval numbers.