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The Perils of Ignoring Bad News

Two Democratic pollsters and consultants, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, take to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to decry the attack by the Obami and their supporters on Fox News and pollsters including Gallup and Rasmussen. They call out the vendetta against Fox, Robert Gibbs’s shot at Gallup, and the avalanche of criticism by liberal spinners as “political intimidation”:

The attacks on Rasmussen and Gallup follow an effort by the White House to wage war on Fox News and to brand it, as former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn did, as “not a real news organization.” The move backfired; in time, other news organizations rallied around Fox News. But the message was clear: criticize the White House at your peril. … Mr. Gibbs’s comments and the recent attempts by the Democratic left to muzzle Scott Rasmussen reflect a disturbing trend in our politics: a tendency to try to stifle legitimate feedback about political concerns—particularly if the feedback is negative to the incumbent administration.

It’s not only unseemly and revealing of a prickly, defensive, and arrogant administration; it has, I think, contributed to the constant state of shock in which the Obami constantly find themselves. Who knew Van Jones was a problem? How could anyone see a 20-point thumping coming in the Virginia gubernatorial race and a loss in very Blue New Jersey? How could the tea-party protesters catch on? How could Massachusetts be competitive? They always seem a step behind the news and the last to recognize their flagging political fortunes.

That arguably flows directly from indifference and hostility to bad news. If one considers only MSNBC and the New York Times, you can miss a lot of news and many a warning sign that the public isn’t with you. And conversely, the refusal to engage the opposition in meaningful ways (rather than simply deride critics as illegitimate if not downright “un-American,” as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tagged the town-hall attendees) has left the policy battleground to the other side. Conservatives say ObamaCare cuts Medicare, unwisely raises taxes in a recession, and will lead to rationed care. The Obami say: Shut up. You can see why they may be losing the argument.

Caddell and Schoen deserve credit for raising the red flag. But as Democrats, they do so not for purely altruistic reasons. They know, even if the White House doesn’t, that putting your fingers in your ears and humming is no way to govern.



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