The Obama White House's war on Fox News heated up when President Obama appeared on five Sunday talk shows in September, but snubbed Fox's Chris Wallace. Then White House Communications Director Anita Dunn told CNN's Howard Kurtz, "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party." On ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Obama guru David Axelrod commented on Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch's "talent for making money" -- and added that Fox News programming is "not really news."
Such scruples, you may marvel, from the office of a president who just spent quality time on CBS's "The Late Show" with David Letterman. President Obama quipped that he appeared on the show to sneak a peak at a "heart-shaped potato." I know because I read about it on the CBS News Web page.
OK, so Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., went too far in suggesting that Obama was drafting an "enemies list." White House aides have a right to criticize a news organization, even question its credibility.
In the same vein, pundits are free to mock the administration's risible attempts to dress up its thin-skinned ways as love for unbiased reportage.
Note: This phony act has backfired. It set the stage for conservative critics at WorldNetDaily to post a January video of Dunn telling a Dominican government conference that the 2008 Obama campaign strategy focused on "making the press cover what we were saying" -- often by not talking to reporters. "It was very much, we controlled it," said Dunn, "as opposed to the press controlled it."
Dunn's idea of a good journalist then would be: a zombie.
A few members of the walking dead are parroting the White House lines. The self-styled watchdog group Media Matters, staffed by former journalists and politicos, proclaimed Fox "a 24/7 political operation" -- its way of lumping news shows with Fox's primetime opinion shows.
The irony here is: Media Matters is Fox News -- at its most opinionated. As its website explains, the group's focus is "monitoring, analyzing, and correcting (SET ITAL) conservative (END ITAL) misinformation in the U.S. media." (My italics, their emphasis.)
In a Newsweek column, Jacob Weisberg suggested that "respectable journalists" like NPR's Mara Liasson should "stop appearing on" Fox News. Weisberg complained about Fox's "all-pervasive slant" -- then criticized any journalists who might try to present a liberal or moderate point of view. Weisberg's real lament then is that Fox is not slanted enough. It makes you wonder if the real goal of Fox critics -- Weisberg anyway -- is to turn the network into a living hell of All Glenn Beck All The Time.
When Republicans were in power, the answer to unwelcome speech was, of course, more speech. They called it a dialogue. For Team Obama, however, the antidote to unwanted comment is challenge the credentials, not only of critics when they get their facts wrong, but any professional associated in any way with Obama critics.
Now, I happen to agree with Obama boosters who argue that the president has no obligation to appear on Fox News shows. If Obama and his minions don't think they can hold their own with Chris Wallace, they are free to cower in their comfy offices.