This week I heard former Bush administration official Carl Rove, on Fox News (where else?), saying that the Obama administration’s attacks on that cable news channel were just part of a grand “diversionary” strategy. This caught my attention, since I have written along those lines more than once in this column-space over the last few months.
Mr. Rove suggested that the Obama White House probably doesn’t care overmuch about what Fox News is (or isn’t) doing, day-to-day. (Although Glen Beck has been a mighty pest, lately, with his exposure of Acorn, Van Jones, etc.) But the Obamanistas find it useful to create a diversion for both Fox and other news organs to pursue, like a pack of baying hounds.
Media-response to this particular “stimulus” reminds me of a friend’s ancient dog, who “guarded” their property – out near the driveway where cars were parked. He could reliably be roused to a barking frenzy if you clicked the remote lock on your car, making the horn give that short “beep.” At the beep, the dog lost all concentration on whatever “guarding” he might have been doing.
Even Fox, itself, has devoted days of coverage to the “Fox = Enemy” story, as cleverly articulated by Mr. Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, and White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, among others. Miss Dunn said she (and presumably the Obama White House) regards the Fox Channel as the “research and communications wing” of the Republican Party.
Rahm Emanuel declaimed at length about Fox not being a “legitimate” news organization because it has “a perspective.” To hear him tell it, the Obama White House is shocked (shocked!) that this is the case. Moreover, said Mr. Emanuel, the Obama administration wants to discourage “…the CNNs and others in the world” from being “led and following Fox, as if what they're trying to do is a legitimate news organization in the sense of both sides' sense of a valued opinion.” (If George W. Bush doesn’t watch it, Rahm Emanuel is going to snatch his Scrambled Syntax title away from him.)
President Obama entered the scrap directly when he said, “I think that what our advisers simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes. And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet then that's another. But it's not something I'm losing a lot of sleep over.” Maybe not, but he and his administration are certainly spending gobs of time trashing Fox News and warning the rest of Big Media not to follow Fox’s lead on stories critical of Mr. Obama and his policies. (I heard that Mr. Emanuel and Miss Dunn are holding auditions for raspy-voiced guys who will call media organs with “offers they can’t refuse.”)
The White House’s running gun-battle with Fox News ramped up on September 19, when Mr. Obama appeared on the Sunday morning shows of all of the major networks and cable channels, except Fox News. This was evidently Fox’s punishment for failing to air the president’s September 9th speech on health care, which he made to a joint session of Congress. In response to the Sunday-talking-head shutout, Fox News’ Chris Wallace said (of the Obama White House), “They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”
This is great stuff for Big Media, who naturally think relations between their trade and the president is the most important thing going on in the world – possibly in the universe. I’ll grant that it’s worthy of note when a sitting president (or even a standing one) calls out a popular television news organ for criticizing his policies. But it turns out a few other things of some importance are actually going on in the country and the wider world. With all the reporting on the Fox Wars, you might not have heard of them, so I thought it worthwhile to mention some.
In the USA, two legislative initiatives are wending their way through the tortuous sausage-making mill that produces new law. (That would be the Congress.) One of these is the Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade bill, which has already passed the House. The other, of course, is the huge proposal to convert 1/6th of the nation’s economy into a government-controlled health-care system. Backers claim that the new system will give us better care at a lower price, and will cover more people. Believing this requires a willing suspension of disbelief, so the president has launched a peripatetic quest to convince voters to believe him instead of their lyin’ eyes.
The whole spectacle is far too ugly to watch, but just in case anyone is tempted to do so, the Fox Wars offer distraction. Of course, Fox’s refusal to follow Team Obama on health care reform has attracted White House ire. But this is a happy confluence of necessity and opportunity: (1) create a diversion to draw the public’s attention away from what statist Democrats want to do to the world’s greatest health-care system, (2) by attacking the very news organ that dares to expose the proposal’s fundamental contradictions.
This diversion is almost as good as Michael Jackson’s death the evening before the House vote on cap-and-trade legislation. The media-fixation on the pop-idol’s unfortunate demise allowed Pelosi-cronies to insert 300 pages of modifications into the bill in the dead of night. With no one watching, the virtually unexamined bill slipped through the House by a razor-thin margin on the next day. I am still meeting otherwise well-informed people who know nothing about this calamitous bill. (Has anyone checked whether MJ’s death might have been a deliberate “hit?”)
With no celebrity deaths looming, and no hit-teams ready to go, Rahm Emanuel has had to make do with a coordinated attack on Fox News to get attention off the administration’s floundering agenda. Unfortunately, this was a risky gambit, as some news organs saw the red warning-light flashing when Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to exclude Fox from White House pool interviews with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg. Other networks figured: if this could be done to Fox, who might be next? Thus, all five TV news networks of the pool – ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC – responded to Fox’s exclusion by unanimously withdrawing from the interviews. (We have no information on the intra-pool discussions leading to this conclusion.) This display of solidarity from Fox’s news competitors was a small ray of encouragement in a dangerous time.
Not to worry though – other diversions are on the way. Perhaps the biggest one is the coming endgame in the “Iran Gets the Bomb” drama. One can assume that Israel is not going to sit by with its thumb in its national ear while Iran gets an atomic bomb, so there will have to be a tipping point where someone acts. Since we’re clearly not going to do anything, Israel will have to. (A child could see this.) With a stockpile of 100+ atomic weapons, Israel clearly has the wherewithal to knock out Iran’s nuclear production facilities. God only knows what will happen when they do.
An Israeli nuclear attack on Iran will be the diversion to end all diversions. When it comes, there won’t be (as we say in the theater business) “a dry seat in the place.” With all attention diverted onto the new Middle-East war, Mr. Obama will be able to push his agenda right through. Nobody will even notice that he’s done it.
Nuclear-schmooclear. No worries. It’s the Chicago Way.