Barack Obama and his White House decided to fight two wars this week, and neither of them were in Afghanistan. The Obama administration took shots at liberal bloggers and Fox News, the former in response to their impatience on key campaign promises, and the latter because … it’s Fox News. As Andrew Malcolm notes, there is a method to the madness of riling the progressive bloggers:
Now, why would a Democratic White House want to annoy — even infuriate — the far side of its activist liberal base that was so crucial to his election? Well, what are they gonna do, announce allegiance to Ron Paul? That ultra-progressive sector simply has nowhere else to go. So, what’s to worry?
Also, Obama enjoys overwhelming support generally among the nation’s Democrats. So what if his popularity there plummets to 80%?
Now, who’s the president gonna need to support healthcare reform and bandage this Afghan mess heading into the 2010 midterm election year when history says he’ll likely lose seats on the Hill? Bingo, those same conservative/centrist House pals of Emanuel’s whose incumbencies are a main shield against any Republican resurgence.
Oh, and about those crucial Independents who elected Obama last November and then started falling away all summer as Obama’s liberal spending, reforms and deficits metastasized? What better way to let those swayable folks come back home than by asking the helpful question, how can Obama possibly be an ultra-liberal if he’s being so publicly vilified by angry ultra-liberals?
Andrew’s fine political analysis makes this a kind of Sister Souljah moment, which is true, but Sister Souljah had an audience of … millions. Plus, when Bill Clinton made her an example, he was a candidate, not President. It’s a question of stature. When White Houses attack bloggers, it puts them on the same level as the President in terms of stature, and that can only mean lowering the stature of the President in that equation.
John Nichols, writing in The Nation — hardly a conservative bellwether — makes the same point about the weird declaration of war on Fox News:
Presidents are supposed to rise above their own partisanship and engage with a wide range of media — even outlets that are hard on their administrations.
In fact, presidents should go out of their way to accept invites from media that can be expected to poke, prod and pester them. The willingness to take the hits suggests that a commander-in-chief is not afraid to engage with his critics. It also reminds presidents, who tend to be cloistered, that there are a lot of Americans who get their information from sources that do not buy what the White House press office is selling. …
When Dunn was asked whether the president refused to accept interview requests from Fox because the White House sees the network as “a wing of the Republican party,” the communications director responded: “Is this why he did not appear? The answer is yes.”
That is such a radically wrong response that it calls into question the whole communications strategy of an administration that has somehow managed to take a man who was elected with a mandate and lodge him in a corner where there are now serious questions about whether a Democratic president and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress can enact basic elements of the Democratic agenda.
Nichols calls Obama a “whiner” later in this piece, but what he describes is a man (and a staff) that have no sense of the office which he holds — in short, an amateur, and one not learning particularly quickly, either.
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