Obama's dumb war with Fox News

Ruth Marcus
Copyright 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009; 6:11 PM

There???s only one thing dumber than picking a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel -- picking a fight with people who don???t even have to buy ink. The Obama administration???s war on Fox News is dumb on multiple levels. It makes the White House look weak, unable to take Harry Truman???s advice and just deal with the heat. It makes the White House look small, dragged down to the level of Glenn Beck. It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian -- Agnewesque? -- aroma at worst. It is a self-defeating trifecta: it distracts attention from the Obama administration???s substantive message; it serves to help Fox, not punish it, by driving up ratings; and it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hard-core Obama haters. Sure, it???s legitimate -- and standard practice -- to dispense access and coveted interviews to favored reporters and news outlets. So is subtly doing the opposite: letting a reporter who???s filed a tough story know that he or she is in the doghouse by leaking a scoop to a competitor. The Bush administration routinely briefed conservative columnists before a big presidential speech; the Obama White House tends to call in ideological sympathizers. This is the way the game is played. Where the White House has gone way overboard is in its decision to treat Fox as an outright enemy and to go public with the assault. Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC. ???Opinion journalism masquerading as news,??? White House communications director Anita Dunn declared of Fox. Certainly Fox tends to report its news with a conservative slant -- but has anyone at the White House clicked over to MSNBC recently? Or is the only problem opinion journalism that doesn???t match its opinion? On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace replayed a quote from an Obama interview: ???I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lock step here.??? Maybe he should tell the rest of the team.


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