CNN’s Campbell Brown’s doing it … so is CNN’s Howie Kurtz. Now, New York Magazine’s Chris Rozwar’s doing it to: whingeing that Barack Obama should stop being mean to Fox News. Really? Rozwar’s arguments break down to the following:
1. Ignoring them will only make them angrier …
But there are plenty of negatives to this take-no-prisoners approach. To begin with, each regular Fox News viewer does not only represent one vote lost to President Obama. There is literally no limit, other than cholesterol-induced high blood pressure, to how angry this constituency can get. And an angrier group — which, we have seen, is easily organized and mobilized by the network — is one that is more likely to try to win over other voters, more likely to donate and raise money, and more likely to engage in the kind of meaningless, but attention-getting, tactics that make their views seem more widely held and genuinely American than they actually are.
In other words … if you don’t go on Fox News, Mr. President, the crazy wingers will recruit other … crazy wingers, to their cause. Left open is the question of how an enraged, eye-bulging teabagger could possibly recruit someone who otherwise would be an Obama voter. Bottom line: the chances of ANYONE who regularly watches Fox News EVER viewing President Obama with anything like objectivity — even if he personally discovered the cure for cancer, they’d accuse him of a socialist attempt to destroy private oncology — is approximately ZERO. He can’t win them over. He can’t reason with them. He’d have better luck sitting down with actual terrorists.
2. If you don’t give Glenn Beck an interview, he’ll call you even more names …
So if Team Obama ignores Fox, it just gives the network’s talent the chance to further caricature him as a socialist, foreign, effete, America-hating Other. It isn’t a racist portrayal, necessarily, but is certainly one that gives actual racists a lot of comfort. Not countering that will help Fox viewers conveniently forget that Obama is intelligent and well spoken. George Bush, who certainly wasn’t the latter, came across as human and likable in interviews. It was one of his greatest strengths (and for critics, one of his most confounding attributes).
This is the old “make the bully your friend” argument, and it works about as well in politics as on the playground. As if once they see Obama sounding reasonable on the teevee, the teabagging, “hate Obama more than they love America” crowd will suddenly say, “Gee! He’s so charming and well spoken!” News flash: they know he’s charming and well spoken, and they hate his guts anyway. And by the way, it didn’t quite work that way for the previous president, since the only people who were disarmed by George W. Bush’s television charm were David Gregory and Chuck Todd. Other than that, most of us still thought Dubya was an idiot. Barack Obama isn’t going to win hearts and minds with the googoos who watch Fox News, no matter how much he smiles and makes nice.
3. If you don’t give Glenn Beck and interview, he’ll think you’re scared of him
Here, Rozwar actually argues, with seriousness, that Barack Obama is diminishing himself by not appearing opposite a crazy person who has already damned him as a commie and a hater of white people (of whom Obama’s mother is one.) Presumably, the argument is that Beck would be forced to be nice if Obama was actually sitting in front of him, because clearly Glenn is not nearly the man Bill O’Reilly is …
… this will allow mike-toting bullies like Glenn Beck to claim that they’ve cowed the president. No doubt we will hear in the coming weeks that Obama is “afraid” of Fox News. When he spoke to every network except for Fox last month, host Chris Wallace called his administration “the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.” Glenn Beck would never have the balls to say to Obama’s face what he’s said on air over the past few months. And now he’ll never have to. Bill O’Reilly, at least, during the election, went toe-to-toe with Obama. But he was positively docile, for him, when he did it — distinctly more polite and deferential than he is to almost any other liberal-leaning guest. O’Reilly, whatever you think of him and his opinions, is undoubtedly an intelligent, well-researched guy who is quick on his feet and firm in his convictions, which are largely unhysterical. Glenn Beck doesn’t have the wit, the knowledge, or the spine of Bill O’Reilly — but now we’ll never get the chance to see that proven.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that the president of the United States shouldn’t lower himself to the level of giving an interview to a rodeo clown. Glenn Beck is not only not a journalist, and has nowhere near the stature necessary to secure a presidential interview, Obama would be a fool to provide him with his next day’s sound bites for vivisection on his radio and television freakouts (the way the producers of “The View” did.) Beck’s “3 million moron” viewership estimate means that at any given time, roughly half as many people as watch David Letterman every night are watching him. If I’m the White House, I’m going with Dave.
And as Rozwar himself points out:
When you’re winning, acknowledging the enemy isn’t necessary. (Remember when Obama wouldn’t do those ten town halls with McCain?)
I do. And these days, Fox News is Barack Obama’s John McCain. Best to ignore them and their angry little viewers and move along.