Of the many comedic moments in this week’s attempt by the Obama administration to ostracize Fox News, perhaps the most telling was the refusal of competing media outlets to participate in an interview of the President’s Pay Czar that specifically excluded Fox. Charles Krauthammer characteristically captures the significance of this moment:
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.
…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.
This pattern of seeking to not simply defeat the political opposition but actually destroy it is the defining characteristic of this Presidency. While Roger Ailes is a big boy and can take care of himself, the history of the Obama Machine demonstrates equal ruthlessness for bystanders as well. Remember, for example, what happened when Candidate Obama wandered into Joe the Plumber’s neighborhood and found himself on the receiving end of an unstaged question. Joe’s embarrassing question for the Incubator Candidate resulted in invasions of his own privacy (perpetrated by Obama operatives) that were criminal. Attempts were made by these same Obama zealots to deliberately undermine, delegitimize and destroy Joe the Plumber.
Now the U S Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, thousands of American physicians, health insurance companies, small businesses and energy producers in poor states find that they are all Joe the Plumber. An Obama administration that can’t and won’t engage its critics on the issues instead terminates the discussion, eliminates debate and demonizes its opposition. This is worse than Nixonian. It’s more like King George III.