Outfoxed

The Obama administration’s war on Fox News is a big mistake.

So Fox News and the Clinton-whoops, I meant Obama-administration, the New York Times declared on Monday, are in open combat. Oh, goody gum drops. Don't the Obamaites have enough wars on their hands already?

Here's how the Times gleefully reported the hostilities:

"We're going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent," said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. "As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

Big mistake. Attacking Fox means that the administration is being outfoxed by its adversary.

Sure, the Obama administration is claiming that Fox is inveterately hostile to it. Bashing Fox is supposed to be a way to gin up the base, to prove to it that the Obama administration isn't composed of a bunch of liberal weenies that lack the gumption to stick it to the Right. But that's not the right way to think about it.

Fox has always been one of my favorite news sources, when I do watch television, because it makes no bones about its political predilections. I'm in the Michael Kinsley camp on this one: Fox, unlike the other networks, doesn't try and pretend to be something that it isn't. It's preaching to the already converted. And it preaches well. It's naked, unadulterated contempt for President Obama.

The Obama administration, in turn, is claiming that Fox isn't really a news organization. "We're not going to legitimize them as a new organization," says Anita Dunn. Well, I guess. But since when is the White House in the business of determining who is and isn't a legitimate news organization? The White House's complaint that Fox is ideological is silly. Is Fox "ideological"? Of course it is. That's what draws in viewers. If liberals don't like what Fox is purveying, then they should defeat it on its own playing field-as, to some extent, they are already doing.

In any case, it seems to me it would be smarter to try and co-opt Fox-or at least Roger Ailes, as Obama did during the election campaign, when the president-to-be had a powwow with him. In fact, I have a suggestion for Obama: he should propose a game of hoops with Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. Or at least a beer in the Rose Garden.

Coming off the heels of his Nobel Prize, Obama should be in an even stronger position to spread good cheer around the nation. What's more, Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. It's time to display an eleemosynary spirit, not a Grinch-like hatred of the opposition. This is one war that Obama should wind down as quickly as possible.

 

Jacob Heilbrunn is a senior editor at The National Interest.