Liberal Lament

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009; 10:28 AM

I'll get to the big Senate Finance Committee vote -- Snowe in October! -- but first I want to spotlight a slam at the administration, from the left.

The president has been having some problems on his liberal flank, which were underscored by last weekend's gay rights protest and the complaints that Obama still won't give a timetable for dumping don't-ask-don't-tell. You see it in health care, too, where some on the left still want single-payer and believe the Democrats have compromised too much with a GOP opposition that has no interest in backing reform.

And now there is the war on Fox News.

I'm admittedly quite interested in this, not just because I cover the media but because Anita Dunn ripped Fox as a faux news organization in a CNN interview with me. You would expect -- at least, I expected -- that liberal pundits would cheer the White House for taking on the network of Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly. And some did.

But more than a few have questioned the White House strategy. Why blow off Fox's audience, which can be as high as 3 million at any given moment? Why use precious resources attacking a cable channel? It probably helps Rupert Murdoch's network, which can position itself as the only news outlet aggressively challenging the administration. The Dunn interview certainly provided plenty of fodder for Beck and O'Reilly on Monday night.

It's significant, then, when the Nation, a champion of liberalism, runs a John Nichols piece titled "Whiner-in-Chief":

"The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.

"First, the president and his aides go to war with Fox News because the network maintains a generally anti-Obama slant.

"Then, an anonymous administration aide attacks bloggers for failing to maintain a sufficiently pro-Obama slant. These are not disconnected developments.

"An administration that won the White House with an almost always on-message campaign and generally friendly coverage from old and new media is now frustrated by its inability to control the debate and get the coverage it wants. . . .

"Fox hosts do go overboard in their savaging of Obama and the Democrats -- sometimes ridiculously so. But their assaults on the president are gentle when compared with the battering that Benjamin Franklin Bache's Philadelphia Aurora administered to John Adams (appropriately) or the trashing that Colonel McCormick's Chicago Tribune gave Franklin Roosevelt (inappropriately). . . .

"Presidents should go out of their way to accept invites from media that can be expected to poke, prod and pester them. The willingness to take the hits suggests that a commander-in-chief is not afraid to engage with his critics. It also reminds presidents, who tend to be cloistered, that there are a lot of Americans who get their information from sources that do not buy what the White House press office is selling. . . .

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