Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fox wars
The 'post-partisan' president makes an enemies list

By Charles Krauthammer

Rahm Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a live pollster. Now he's put a horse's head in Roger Ailes's 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 "green jobs" 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 they should 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 those of CNN and MSNBC 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 that 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?

View all comments that have been posted about this article.


Mark Steyn – “Obama A Tough Guy, At Least With Fox News: White House
tries to intimidate U.S. media while being a pushover with our foreign

Orange County Register
Friday, October 23, 2009

Benjamin Disraeli's most famous advice to aspiring politicians was:
"Never complain and never explain." For the greatest orator of our
time, a man who makes Churchill, Lincoln and Henry V at Agincourt look
like first-round rejects on "Orating With The Stars," Barack Obama
seems to have pretty much given up on the explaining side. He tried it
with health care with speech after speech after exclusive interview
for months on end, and the more he explained the more unpopular the
whole racket got. So he declared that the time for explaining is over,
and it's time to sign on or else.

Meanwhile, to take the other half of the Disraeli equation, Obama and
his officials and their beleaguered band of surrogates never stop
complaining. If you express concerns about government health care,
they complain about all these "racists" and "domestic terrorists"
obstructing his agenda. If you wonder why the president can't seem to
find time in his hectic schedule of international awards acceptance
speeches to make a decision about Afghanistan, they complain that it's
not his fault he "inherited" all these problems. And, if you wonder
why his "green jobs" czar is a communist 9/11 truther, and his
National Endowment for the Arts guy is leaning on grant recipients to
produce Soviet-style propaganda extolling Obama policies, they
complain about Fox News.

The most recent whine – the anti-Fox campaign – is, apart from
anything else, unbecoming to the office. President Obama is the chief
of state of one of the oldest free societies in the world, but his
official White House Web site runs teasers such as: "For even more Fox
lies, check out the latest 'Truth-O-Meter.'" It gives off the air of
somebody only marginally less paranoid than this week's
president-for-life in some basket-case banana republic ranting on the
palace balcony because his interior security chief isn't doing a
fast-enough job of disappearing his enemies.

George W Bush: Remember him? Of course, you do. He's the guy who's to
blame for everything, and still will be midway through Obama's second
term. It turns out he's in exile abroad. Presumably he jumped bail and
snuck across the border on the roof of a box car. But, anyway, he was
giving a speech in Saskatoon. That's a town in Saskatchewan. And
Saskatchewan's a province in Canada apparently. And in the course of
his glittering night playing the Saskatoon circuit, he was asked about
media criticism of him, and he told the … Saskatoonistanies?
Saskatchewannabees? Whatever. He told them the attacks never bothered
him, although his dad used to get upset: "He'd read the editorial
pages, he'd watch the nightly news, and I didn't. I mean, why watch
the nightly news when you are the nightly news?"

That attitude, while raising a bunch of other issues, is
psychologically healthier. If you're going to attack the press, you
need a lightness of touch, not a ham-fisted crowbar such as the White
House wielded Thursday, attempting to ban Fox from the pool interviews
with the "pay czar." Another bit of venerable Disraelian insouciance,
on the scribblers of Fleet Street: "Today they blacken your character,
tomorrow they blacken your boots." For two years, the U..S. media have
been polishing Obama's boots, mostly with their drool, to a degree
unprecedented in American public life. But now it's time for the
handful of holdouts to make with the Kiwi – or else.

At a superficial level, this looks tough. A famously fair-minded
centrist told me the other day that he'd been taken aback by some of
the near parodic examples of Leftie radicalism discovered in the White
House in recent weeks. I don't know why he'd be surprised. When a man
has spent his entire adult life in the "community organized" precincts
of Chicago, it should hardly be news that much of his Rolodex is made
up of either loons or thugs. The trick is identifying who falls into
which category. Anita Dunn, the Communications Director commending Mao Zedong as a role model to graduating high school students, would seem an obvious loon. But the point about Mao, as Charles Krauthammer
noted, is that he was the most ruthless imposer of mass conformity in
modern history: In Mao's China, everyone wore the same clothes. So
when Communications Commissar Mao Ze Dunn starts berating Fox News for
not getting into the same Maosketeer costumes as the rest of the press
corps, you begin to see why the Chairman might appeal to her as a
favorite "political philosopher".

So the troika of Dunn, Emanuel and Axelrod were dispatched to the
Sunday talk shows to lay down the law. We all know the lines from "The
Untouchables" – "the Chicago way," don't bring a knife to a gunfight –
and, given the pay czar's instant contract-gutting of executive
compensation and the demonization of the health insurers and much
else, it's easy to look on the 44th president as an old-style Cook
County operator: You wanna do business in this town, you gotta do it
through me. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but
you can't take the Chicago out of the community organizer.

The trouble is it isn't tough, not where toughness counts. Who are the
real "Untouchables" here? In Moscow, it's Putin and his gang,
contemptuously mocking U.S. officials even when (as with Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton) they're still on Russian soil. In Tehran, it's
Ahmadinejad and the mullahs openly nuclearizing as ever feebler
warnings and woozier deadlines from the Great Powers come and go. Even
Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is an exquisite act of condescension from
the Norwegians, a dog biscuit and a pat on the head to the American
hyperpower for agreeing to spay itself into a hyperpoodle. We were
told that Obama would use "soft power" and "smart diplomacy" to get
his way. Russia and Iran are big players with global ambitions, but
Obama's soft power is so soft it doesn't even work its magic on a
client regime in Kabul whose leaders' very lives are dependent on
Western troops. If Obama's "smart diplomacy" is so smart that even
Hamid Karzai ignores it with impunity, why should anyone else pay

The strange disparity between the heavy-handed community organization
at home and the ever cockier untouchables abroad risks making the
commander in chief look like a weenie – like "President Pantywaist,"
as Britain's Daily Telegraph has taken to calling him.

The Chicago way? Don't bring a knife to a gunfight? In Iran, this
administration won't bring a knife to a nuke fight. In Eastern Europe,
it won't bring missile defense to a nuke fight. In Sudan, it won't
bring a knife to a machete fight.

But, if you're doing the overnight show on WZZZ-AM, Mister Tough Guy's
got your number

Guest Comment: Just how much control does Obama want, crave? By trying to eliminate the only news network that is unafraid to be critical of him and his cohorts, he has finally gone too far. This is nothing less an attempt of censorship. Just as he excluded ZOA, the oldest pro Israel advocacy group, from his meeting with Jewish leaders earlier this year, so he omitted Fox news from a scheduled news conference with his executive pay zcars. Fortunately, the other news networks were more brave than the Jewish organizations--they refused to attend. They recognized that it may be Fox first and the rest later. Shut them down if they don't support you or dare to criticize. Now that's the new American way! Aggie

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