White House Battle With Fox News Backfires

Ruth Marcus writes over at the PostPartisan blog at the Washington Post that the White House is appearing “weak, unable to take Harry Truman’s advice and just deal with the heat”. In a moment of sheer clarity Marcus fires this zinger that somehow got past the Post editorial goalie:

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?

There is a common thread running through the sak cloth donned by the wailing Axelrod, Dunn and Emmanuel. They are seen by viewers now as whiners and complainers, attributes that don’t fit well with the triumphant, all powerful masters of the universe persona they embraced a mere eight months ago. As has been mentioned before, one of the beneficial effects of a brutal, hard won campaign experience is that it sharpens a politician’s thinking and reflexes, to say nothing of toughening the hide.

The attack on Fox News by the Obama administration has had the exact opposite effect expected by the Obama White House. It has made Obama look smaller, increased Fox’s ratings and exposed Fox’s competition to scrutiny and ridicule. Skilled political operators would never have attempted to win this battle, but then again, we are seeing more evidence every day that there isn’t much there “there” with this White House.

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