Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obama and Fox News: The Debate

So there's been somewhat of a pretty big debate on the left surrounding Obama's appearance on fox news last Sunday. To start, Kos provides a good explanation on the background, and why he was didn't approve.
We've spent the last few years in the netroots working to discredit Fox News as the propaganda network strives for mainstream respectability. The more it is viewed as a legitimate news outlet, the better it will be at injecting right-wing narratives into the broader media stream. It's why we fought so strongly against the attempts by the Nevada Democratic Party and the Congressional Black Caucus to partner with Fox on several Democratic primary debates. Debating on Fox made as much sense as Republicans debating on Air America. Or Daily Kos.

Given Fox's role in pushing several bullshit attacks against Obama (including the one about Obama attending a Muslim Madras while living in Indonesia in his youth), Obama had wisely steered clear of the network during the primary. Yet he clearly hit on a dilemma -- Indiana is an open primary, hence Republican crossover support could be key to victory in the state. And where do Republicans hang out? Yup. Fox News.

On the other hand, the network had consistently taunted his refusal to visit Fox. His appearance essentially sends the message that Obama is susceptible to caving to right-wing bullying taunts and threats. Perhaps not a surprise since that appears a trait embedded in the Democrats' DNA.
Move on (whose members have endorsed Obama) explains further(with links):

It was a mistake for Obama to go on FOX’s Sunday show and treat the experience as if it was a real news interview. Democratic politicians need to understand that FOX is a Republican mouthpiece masquerading as a news outlet. When dealing with FOX, you either burn them or they will burn you.

It's well documented that FOX executives send morning memos to anchors and reporters dictating Republican talking points. In 2006, one said, “Be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents...thrilled at the prospect of a Dem controlled Congress.” Robert Greenwald's videos have shown FOX's consistent pattern of smearing Barack Obama, smearing Hillary Clinton, smearing African Americans, and denying global warming.

FOX's power lies not in its audience size – which is puny and consists mostly of unpersuadable voters. Instead, FOX's power comes from tricking politicians and real journalists into treating their “breaking stories” like real news, thereby propelling smears like the Swift Boats and Rev. Wright into the mainstream political dialogue. That's why progressives fought (successfully) last year to deprive FOX of the legitimacy that comes with hosting a Democratic presidential debate. And that's why Democratic politicians should never treat FOX like a real news outlet - including FOX's Sunday show.

So I've gone back and for on this. I agree with most of the stuff written above, and successfully marginalizing fox as a conservative news network is a very important goal, and the tool we have on that front is to stop democrats from legitimizing it as a network. But even though I wouldn't have advised him to go on, the narrative of his campaign kind of paints him a in corner for these situations. If you build your campaign on inclusiveness and ending divisions, you could see why he wouldn't want to be seen as freezing out a right wing news outlet because of "politics" or "partisanship".

[Tangent: This and racism are the only two actual weakness I see in Obama's general election campaign. His narrative painting himself into a corner when it comes to strongly taking on the GOP and undercurrents of racism that still exist in a big way. Other than that, he's pretty much as good as we could hope for in a general election candidates ]

I see why his campaign did it, but I just don't think it was that smart to do so. I'm not sure how many votes are gained, as Move On pointed out, and you tend to harbor ill will from your own side when campaign operatives lie about your motives for going on the air.

And for the record... I am fully aware this whole debate doesn't have very much significance outside of dailykos and that world, but I found it interesting nonetheless. Oh yeah, and for those how cared about how the ACTUAL interview went, here are some pieces (Transcript here):


  1. first off, my bad dude for posting 15 minutes after you. its great to have as much content on the blog as possible but i didn't mean to push your post halfway down the page.

    as for obama, i thought the criticisms and the video clips were extremely skewed. i'm back and forth on it as you are; he didn't say anything incredibly stupid, and he does need to reach voters in indiana on as broad a spectrum as possible. but it is a mistake to validate fox news as being an actual news outlet in any way. obama is not going to condemn fox or these non-issue questions as ferociously as most progressives might like, but he will never be that type of candidate. his message is all about bringing everyone together, so why do they expect him to go on this show and start taking them to task. and even if he did, would that be an effective strategy going into indiana or a national campaign?

  2. I was actually going to comment on this after work, but nice job.
    This is one of the things that has really bothered me, and I think Kos brought up a good point in yesterday's post about why give them the ammo? Harold Ford tried this, and look at how much 'respect' he gained... No player on the right would do the same, and it must be time to start saying screw it. No way McCain goes on and starts taking questions about his controversial Reverend on Air America.
    Intentions aside, operatives will skew it to simple soundbites and damning quotes that will recieve airplay for the upcoming months.
    There are smarter ways to reach out, as Obama showed with his speech on race.