Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fox News Channel

Faltering Obama Still Blaming Messenger

Fox News may be demolishing its more liberal cable news rivals in the ratings but to Democrats it’s still the bogeyman. That’s why President Obama took the opportunity to criticize the network during a speech defending his economic record at Northwestern University today. But in doing so, the president not only demonstrated the weakness of his position but also why he doesn’t understand Fox’s appeal.

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Fox News may be demolishing its more liberal cable news rivals in the ratings but to Democrats it’s still the bogeyman. That’s why President Obama took the opportunity to criticize the network during a speech defending his economic record at Northwestern University today. But in doing so, the president not only demonstrated the weakness of his position but also why he doesn’t understand Fox’s appeal.

During his speech, the president said this about Fox and its audience:

A true opposition party should have the courage to lay out their agenda. Hopefully also grounded in facts. There’s a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on the deficits – because the deficits have come down at almost a record pace and they’re now manageable. There’s a reason fewer are running against ObamaCare – because while good, affordable health care might still be a fanged threat to freedom of the American people on Fox News, it turns out it’s working pretty well in the real world.

There’s a lot to unwrap in just one paragraph but let’s try to hit the major points.

First, the notion that Republicans are not running on their party’s principles on spending, taxes, and the deficit is the sort of thing only a person living inside the White House echo chamber could believe. Across the country, GOP candidates are doing just that as they continue to capitalize on the voters’ disillusionment with the president’s liberal agenda and failed leadership.

Though, due to the faltering economy and the nation’s focus on the president’s foreign-policy failures, ObamaCare is not as potent an issue this fall as it was in the past, he’s kidding himself if he thinks it is going away. As I noted yesterday, successful court challenges will ensure that it remains on the agenda in the coming year. And if the courts don’t eviscerate the law, skyrocketing insurance costs and the possibly devastating impact on employment as the employer mandate goes into effect will put it back on the national agenda.

If anybody is running away from their party and its leader this year, it’s Democrats. Most Democrats locked in tough fights are not only avoiding Obama like the plague; they are also denying any connection to him. In what may be a new low point of embarrassment for the Democrats, Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to answer when repeatedly asked if she had voted for the president’s reelection in 2012.

But let’s forget about the specifics of the president’s boasts about the economy or his faux confidence on the staying power of the misnamed Affordable Care Act. Instead, let’s contemplate the dismaying spectacle of a sitting president of the United States obsessing about a cable network and treating it and its audience as if they were his enemy.

As Greg Gutfeld, one of the hosts of Fox’s The Five program quipped in response: “He [Obama] bashes FNC [Fox News Channel] more than ISIS, and we don’t behead anybody.” But jokes aside, the president’s continuing obsession with Fox is itself an interesting commentary on his disconnect with much of the nation.

The difference between Fox’s coverage of ObamaCare and that of much of the mainstream media is not so much that the network portrays ObamaCare as a “fanged threat to freedom” but that on MSNBC and CNN, not to mention the broadcast networks and the New York Times, critiques of the law or even discussions about its effectiveness, its impact on the economy, or on individual rights are often hard to find. Fox has become the dominant cable news network not so much because it is conservative as because it is the one place viewers know they can go to find alternative views to that of the liberal media establishment that has so often acted as the president’s unpaid cheering section.

The president may get a laugh from his liberal base and media sycophants when he attacks Fox but every time he does so he only betrays his weakness and his lack of comfort with opposing views. As his party heads toward a disastrous midterm defeat that will officially seal his fate as a powerless lame duck, the president would do better to stop blaming the media messengers and start pondering his own failures.

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Liberals Pin Their Hopes on an Obama Attack on the GOP

One liberal trope after the speech, voiced by Chrystia Freedland of the Financial Times on Charlie Rose, is that Obama is putting Republican politicians on notice he will go after them as the do-nothing impeders of progress. Republicans should pray this is the case, and it may be the case. The model here would be Harry Truman’s 1948 war on the “Do Nothing Congress.” The problem is that Truman was running against a Republican Congress. Obama will be asking the country to believe that some weird amalgam of a minority party in the House and Senate and the Fox News Channel is mystically interfering with the will of the people. The delusion that a the president in charge of a party with a 50-seat majority in the House and a nine-seat advantage in the Senate can successfully claim that the minority is in charge  is just that—a delusion. You don’t have to be following these matters closely to know that Democrats won a blowout two years ago and that this is their political moment. If Obama cannot get what he wants, everybody will know it will be due to his inability to convince the country of the rightness of his policy aims. That liberals like Freedland and Andrew Sullivan can’t see this, because they too are fogged over by their rage with a conservative vitality they did not expect, offers up the tantalizing possibility that the White House will be similarly blinded to reality, and will march with authority and vigor right over a political cliff.

One liberal trope after the speech, voiced by Chrystia Freedland of the Financial Times on Charlie Rose, is that Obama is putting Republican politicians on notice he will go after them as the do-nothing impeders of progress. Republicans should pray this is the case, and it may be the case. The model here would be Harry Truman’s 1948 war on the “Do Nothing Congress.” The problem is that Truman was running against a Republican Congress. Obama will be asking the country to believe that some weird amalgam of a minority party in the House and Senate and the Fox News Channel is mystically interfering with the will of the people. The delusion that a the president in charge of a party with a 50-seat majority in the House and a nine-seat advantage in the Senate can successfully claim that the minority is in charge  is just that—a delusion. You don’t have to be following these matters closely to know that Democrats won a blowout two years ago and that this is their political moment. If Obama cannot get what he wants, everybody will know it will be due to his inability to convince the country of the rightness of his policy aims. That liberals like Freedland and Andrew Sullivan can’t see this, because they too are fogged over by their rage with a conservative vitality they did not expect, offers up the tantalizing possibility that the White House will be similarly blinded to reality, and will march with authority and vigor right over a political cliff.

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