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White House Feud With Fox News Is Undignified

Monday, 19 Oct 2009 09:26 AM

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“Some people don’t want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions and prejudice.”

--Geoff Metcalf

Headlines are screaming about the all-too-public dust-up between the Obama White House and Fox News. Fox has obviously gotten under the too-thin skin of the administration and the president seems both willing and enthused to accept poor counsel from the Rahm Emanuel "Chicago style" wing of advisers.

Even the New York Times begrudgingly admits the White House “by deploying official resources against a troublesome media organization, seems to have brought a knife to a gunfight.”

All administrations get a turn in the barrel from the fourth estate. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon (big time), Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, and Bush (43) all have been mercilessly bludgeoned by the media. Clinton mitigated the sting a tad while Rich Kaplan ran CNN and earned the cable pioneer the title “Clinton News Network” (which although harsh is softer than the more common appellation from the right of “Communist News Network”).

Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, the Russian writer, once observed, “History shows us that governments, as seen from the reign of Caesar to those of the two Napoleons and Prince Bismarck, are in their very essence a violation of justice . . . Governments will never consent to diminish the number of those well-trained and submissive servants, who constitute their power and influence."

The White House angst (fanned no doubt by the rabid Rahm Emmanuel) is in large measure a self-inflicted wound. Left leaning media bias is an axiom. Bernie Goldberg highlighted the empirical realities in his book "Bias" but "Saturday Night Live" (for sure no member of the radical right) eviscerated the “Jack Squat” Obama administration.

It is significant and potentially emblematic of a begrudging sea change that increasingly the collective voice of the left is now acknowledging the “mandate for change” has thus far resulted in “nada." (See my Oct. 6 column.)

Frankly, the White House aim seems grossly misdirected and for any administration to engage in a spitting match with the media is at best counterproductive.

So now, after officially vilifying Fox News, publicly saying that they would treat the network as "an opponent," and conspicuously snubbing Fox while overtly reaching out to all the other networks, the gang that can’t shoot straight (White House officials) again flip-flops and reports that “they will allow administration officials to appear” on the persona non grata network.

White House communications director Anita Dunn poured gasoline on a smoking ember by saying of Fox News, "almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party . . . We don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

Fox News executive Michael Clemente said that President Obama's aides had decided to "declare war on a news organization."

Neener-Neener-Neener.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the way "the president looks at it and we look at it is it is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective."

Some of us lived through this already during the Nixon administration. Let the demonization continue….

"This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list," Karl Rove said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States." But hey, it is certainly cool for Fox News ratings (which have seen a 20 percent spike).

Obama blew off "Fox News Sunday" when he appeared on five Sunday-morning news shows last month. Subsequently, he sent aides to discuss the war in Afghanistan, the economy and the overhaul of the nation's healthcare system on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC. Fox was ignored.

The “Chicago way” may be a testosterone high but the history of administrations that have successfully took on the media and won is short and those predate the contemporary media compendium.

Obama the candidate made a big honking deal positioning his persona as being above the tussle of petty partisan wrangling. He promised, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Hell-o?!

This current spitting match is beneath the dignity of the presidency. It is an early Christmas present to not only Fox News but the long, growing list of Obama critics.

Obama won the White House with masterful manipulation and salesmanship that created perception as reality. Unfortunately (or not), the reality of the Obama administration and its serious shortcomings and ward-style political veniality is close to morphing the “above it all” perception into a carping shadow of Rahm and Boss Tweed.

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