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New White House Policy: If You Can’t Beat Them, Belittle Them

October 13th, 2009 No comments

   What do you do if you’re the President of the United States and a certain media outlet seems to be gunning for you? If you’re Richard Nixon, you have the IRS audit their income tax returns. If you’re Bill and Hillary Clinton, you discredit your accusers and label your attackers part of a “vast right wing conspiracy.” If you’re Barack Obama, you label them an “ideological outlet” and “a pretend news organization,” then you side-step their interviews and rebuff their questions at White House press conferences. Has the Office of the Presidency stooped so low that it can’t handle criticism? Sadly, the Obama White House has.

   On September 20, 2009, President Obama, in a media blitz, toured the media outlets giving them interviews for their Sunday political news programs. The President was there to try to shore up support for his government run health care initiative which has lately been suffering declines in public opinion polls. Obama granted all of the major media outlets an interview — except for Fox News, which he snubbed. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, threw out the Administration’s demeaning explanation of why the President had snubbed Fox News saying that, “We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health care reform.” Obviously referring to Fox’s choice not to break into its regularly scheduled “So You Think You Can Dance” to show the President televised speech about health care reform, which apparently angered Obama. Snub me, I snub you mentality which is a popular strategy used in game theory called “Tit for tat” or more commonly known as “equivalent retaliation.” The angry Obama then went even further by publicly stating that he feels that Fox News is nothing more than an “ideological outlet.” Couple that with the White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn’s statement this past week on CNN that, “Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party” and then added “Let’s not pretend [Fox is] a news organization like CNN is.” Not satisfied that she had vilified Fox News enough, Dunn took the Administration’s anger to the New York Times and whined that Fox News was “undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House [and] we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

   Anyone see a pattern forming here? Disagree with President Obama or his policies and the Administration will slander and vilify you. Never mind those aged pieces of paper called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Never mind embracing the time honored First Amendment’s guaranteed right to free speech and freedom of the press. Rights that Barack Obama solemnly swore to “preserve, protect and defend.”

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

   What kind of America do we live in where the Office of the President is allowed to throw out such malicious and snide remarks completely unchecked by its citizens? Every American should be up in arms about these comments. They were solely intended to damage the reputation of Fox News and are just flat out mean spirited. Communications Director Dunn, who heads up a Democrat political advertising and consulting firm, says that the Obama Administration is going to treat Fox News “like any other political opponent.” I guess in political speak that translates into “very badly with a few lies thrown in for effect.”

   What kind of America do we live in where the actions of the President of the United States are coming right out of the play books from the likes of Germany’s Adolf Hitler or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or more recently Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez who all, in an attempt to stifle criticism and opposition, attempted to rid their countries of people and organizations who would dare express a dissenting opinion.

   It was Barack Obama, himself, who promised the American people more transparency in government. In fact, prominently displayed on the White House website is a Memorandum from President Barack Obama to all heads of executive departments and agencies. It’s entitled, “Transparency and Open Government” and it begins like this:

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

   An “unprecedented level of openness in government?” Sounds very impressive — on paper. But on paper is where that promise ends. Out in the real world, the Obama Administration is choosing who it wants to be open with and who it doesn’t. Obviously, Fox News isn’t among the chosen.

   How much of an impact can denying one media outlet access to the White House have? I was curious about this myself so I went and found the ratings for the major news outlets. To my surprise, the Fox News audience is more than all of its competitors combined. That’s a lot of viewers. I knew that they were near the top but I had no idea that they had so many viewers or that Fox News was so popular. Here’s the breakdown:

Media Ratings

   But let’s back up for a minute. We all know that the conservative Fox News was more than a little partial to George W. Bush, so why should people expect that the liberal CNN, MSNBC, ABC and CBS wouldn’t be favorable to Obama? It has long been alleged that most of the media outlets have a liberal slant to them, although this has been repeatedly denied by each of those media outlets being labeled as such. It wasn’t until a UCLA-led study determined that, in fact, the media has a liberal bias. Using the same method used by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) to track the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue, the two co-authors of the study, together with 21 research assistants, scoured media coverage from the last 10 years. The study found that of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind The Wall Street Journal’s news coverage. Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored to the right. To guard against bias, or the appearance of it, the co-authors took several steps to protect the study from influence. First, they omitted editorial and op-ed pieces from each media source and instead focused on their coverage of the news. Second, they ensured that their research assistants were equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans alike. And finally third, they sought no outside funding for their research — an almost unheard of feat for a study this size. See: Media Bias Is Real.

   So what we know for certain is that the main stream media carries a substantial liberal bias yet it’s the conservative Fox News that dominates among those getting their news and information. Even more surprising, the Fox News viewer base is growing, encompassing more and more liberal viewers each day. As the liberal news base dwindles, the sound of dissent over the current Administration’s policies grows louder with each market share that the conservative Fox News picks up. Hence, it’s no wonder why the Obama Administration is worried.

   In order to quell any further conservative expansion into the viewer base of the liberal main stream media, the newly appointed Communications Director, Anita Dunn, alleges that Fox News has “declared war” on the President when the facts plainly show that it is the White House that has declared war on Fox News.

   So fearful of the influence that Fox News wields, that twice the White House has sent David Axelrod, President Obama’s most senior adviser, to meet with Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, in what has been dubbed as Fox Summit I and Fox Summit II. The summits were an attempt by the White House to quell or at least lighten the conservative’s criticism of President Obama and his policies. When these summits failed to produce the desired outcome that the White House wanted — war was declared on Fox News. But it’s not just Fox News that is being attacked. It’s all of conservative news and talk radio. Whether or not the White House has met with representatives of the liberal main stream media and gave them marching orders is not known, but as soon as the White House began its attack on Fox News, liberal main stream media began attacking conservatives on all fronts.

   The actions undertaken by Obama Administration in the last few weeks are leading it squarely down a path the end of which no leader wants to find himself. A path we have all seen repeatedly traversed throughout history, where the intended target becomes a martyr for the masses who then turns upon the aggressor. While most of Obama’s close staff undoubtedly share his liberal views, approximately one-half of the hundreds of thousands of other government workers are conservative. If Fox News can’t get information openly and candidly from the White House itself, the use of informants and surveillance will be the order of the day. Remember, Richard Nixon’s downfall was a confidential informant that Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein dubbed “Deep Throat.” All media outlets have informants inside the top levels of government. That’s no secret. It takes just one tiny secret to get out in this highly charged “war on conservative media” and a scandal the size that we have never seen before will break out. Not to be left out in the cold, the liberal media will jump right in leaving the Administration without a friend in all of media. If just one drop of blood hits the water, all of those media sharks will to go into a feeding frenzy, friend and foe alike. Just one secret. Just one slip up. Just one loose word accidentally uttered. Just one secretly taped recorded conversation. Just one illicit affair with a staff member. Just one lie. Just one thing from his past brought to light. Just one friend turned enemy. Just one, just one.

   Fox News will be waiting. Half of America will be waiting. Just one.

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