Friday, October 23, 2009

Fox Wars

Fox Wars
Charles Krauthammer
Friday, October 23, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Rahm Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a live pollster. Now he's put a horse's head in Roger Ailes' bed.

Not very subtle. And not very smart. Ailes doesn't scare easily.

The White House has declared war on Fox News. White House communications director Anita Dunn said that Fox is "opinion journalism masquerading as news." Patting rival networks on the head for their authenticity (read: docility), senior adviser David Axelrod declared Fox "not really a news station." And Chief of Staff Emanuel told (warned?) the other networks not to "be led (by) and following Fox."

Meaning? If Fox runs a story critical of the administration -- from exposing White House czar Van Jones as a loony 9/11 "truther" to exhaustively examining the mathematical chicanery and hidden loopholes in proposed health care legislation -- the other news organizations should think twice before following the lead.

The signal to corporations is equally clear: You might have dealings with a federal behemoth that not only disburses more than $3 trillion every year but is extending its reach ever deeper into private industry -- finance, autos, soon health care and energy. Think twice before you run an ad on Fox.

At first, there was little reaction from other media. Then on Thursday, the administration tried to make them complicit in an actual boycott of Fox. The Treasury Department made available Ken Feinberg, the executive pay czar, for interviews with the White House "pool" news organizations -- except Fox. The other networks admirably refused, saying they would not interview Feinberg unless Fox was permitted to as well. The administration backed down.

This was an important defeat because there's a principle at stake here. While government can and should debate and criticize opposition voices, the current White House goes beyond that. It wants to delegitimize any significant dissent. The objective is no secret. White House aides openly told Politico that they're engaged in a deliberate campaign to marginalize and ostracize recalcitrants, from Fox to health insurers to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

There's nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality. We have norms, Madisonian norms.

Madison argued that the safety of a great republic, its defense against tyranny, requires the contest between factions or interests. His insight was to understand "the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties." They would help guarantee liberty by checking and balancing and restraining each other -- and an otherwise imperious government.

Factions should compete, but also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian.

But didn't Teddy Roosevelt try to destroy the trusts? Of course, but what he took down was monopoly power that was extinguishing smaller independent competing interests. Fox News is no monopoly. It is a singular minority in a sea of liberal media. ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC vs. Fox. The lineup is so unbalanced as to be comical -- and that doesn't even include the other commanding heights of the culture that are firmly, flagrantly liberal: Hollywood, the foundations, the universities, the elite newspapers.

Fox and its viewers (numbering more than CNN's and MSNBC's combined) need no defense. Defend Fox compared to whom? To CNN -- which recently unleashed its fact-checkers on a "Saturday Night Live" skit mildly critical of President Obama, but did no checking of a grotesquely racist remark CNN falsely attributed to Rush Limbaugh?

Defend Fox from whom? Fox's flagship 6 o'clock evening news out of Washington (hosted by Bret Baier, formerly by Brit Hume) is, to my mind, the best hour of news on television. (Definitive evidence: My mother watches it even on the odd night when I'm not on.) Defend Fox from the likes of Anita Dunn? She's been attacked for extolling Mao's political philosophy in a speech at a high school graduation. But the critics miss the surpassing stupidity of her larger point: She was invoking Mao as support and authority for her impassioned plea for individuality and trusting one's own choices. Mao as champion of individuality? Mao, the greatest imposer of mass uniformity in modern history, creator of a slave society of a near-billion worker bees wearing Mao suits and waving the Little Red Book?

The White House communications director cannot be trusted to address high schoolers without uttering inanities. She and her cohorts are now to instruct the country on truth and objectivity?

And on the same subject...

Obama's Vindictive and Personal War on Unbiased News
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown
Friday, October 23, 2009

By launching coordinated, fully-blown warfare on Fox News, as is their style, the Obama administration is stopping far beneath the dignity of the office of president. The recent round of attacks became particularly intense as White House communications staff, senior advisors, and even the president himself each took their turns at lobbing potshots at the top cable news station.

This conflict began brewing during the presidential campaign with Obama cracking jokes and complaining about Fox News, continued through the early months of his presidency, and then increased their momentum to reach the unprecedented crescendo of the recent bombardments. The first new round of shots was fired when Obama visited five Sunday morning shows in one day, including the big networks, CNN, and Univision, but clearly neglecting to appear on the leading cable news station, Fox.

The real battle began on October 12, when Communications Director Anita Dunn defined Fox News as "a wing of the Republican Party" then mocked and belittled it by saying, "But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." She continued her diatribe by calling Fox News "opinion journalism masquerading as news." This statement is most ironic given that CNN dubbed legitimate tea party protesters "tea baggers" and whose own reporter shouted down protesters, lecturing them about how wonderful Obama's policies are for them. In a recent recording, Dunn brags about how the Obama campaign controlled their message and their media coverage. Evidently, Anita Dunn abhors Fox News because they refuse to be lapdogs like the rest of the media. Dunn pridefully declared that no one from the Obama administration will be appearing on Fox for at least the rest of this year.

The attacks intensified when White House senior advisers Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel played their roles by hitting the Sunday talk-show circuit with their disdain for Fox News. They repeated the same prepared lines from the White House, stating that Fox was not a news organization. Evidently Emanuel and other team members are upset that Fox covers newsworthy stories, including ACORN and Van Jones, while the mainstream, liberal media barely mention them. Fox represents a voice they don't control. Consequently, Team Obama is engaging in the tactics of Obama's extremely radical, left-wing mentor, Saul Alinsky, to isolate and discredit them.

The assaults sunk to new lows this week when President Obama personally entered the scene. Illustrating just how thin-skinned our commander-in-chief is, he pronounced that Fox News is "operating basically as talk radio," meaning, talk radio allows people to criticize Obama. It is particularly telling when a president stoops to the level of criticizing a news organization, because it reveals how desperate, frightened and threatened he truly feels.

The lapdog media have responded as expected to this unprecedented assault on free speech and a news organization. Only Jake Tapper of ABC and Helen Thomas, dean of the press corps, have stood up and argued that the White House is using outlandish, reprehensible tactics. Outside of these two, the lapdog media remain passive and mum. In a column for Newsweek, Jacob Weisberg is even calling for a media boycott of Fox News, claiming that the organization is "Un-American."

The hypocrisy and double standard displayed by these media types is truly unbelievable. If Bush or a Republican candidate for office had ever criticized MSNBC and declared it to be a wing of the Democratic Party, the criticism would never end. The worst hypocrite of all is Keith Olbermann.

In 2008, White House Counsel Ed Gillespie sent a letter to the president of NBC accusing the network of selectively editing Bush's answers to distort the president's position. Olbermann later blasted Gillespie in his "Worst Person in the World" segment, accusing Gillespie of "whining like a high school sophomore." What is Olbermann doing now? He is out front cheerleading the Obama administration's attacks on Fox and attended a meeting with Obama this week in a summit for fellow liberal influencers including Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson and Maureen Dowd.

Lapdog Olbermann the Doberman is an outspoken bigot, evidenced by his own words: "Mr. Bush, shut the hell up!" "You're a fascist! Get them to print a T-shirt with the word 'fascist' on it!" "George W. Bush is 'psychotic' with 'blood on his hands,'" and calls the GOP the greatest terrorist threat in America. The liberal double standard is out in full force. Thankfully, Americans are ignoring President Obama's pettiness and attacks by tuning into Fox for the unbiased story in record numbers. The American people know bias when they see it, and they want to know the truth.

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