The Obama White House recently decided that Fox News is biased and that it should be called out for its distortions and mistruths. White House strategists have apparently concluded that the Beck-Hannity-O’Reilly crowd is getting traction. Even though recent polls put Obama’s approval ratings over the 50% mark—the latest CNN poll put his popularity at 55%—the White House is growing increasingly concerned about the impact his opponents will have on major upcoming legislative proposals like health care, cap-and-trade, and the consumer protection agency. As a result, Obama will still do interviews on Fox, but his staff has clearly labeled the network media non grata.
Meanwhile, former vice-president Dick Cheney is continuing his crusade against Obama’s foreign policy, going so far as to label the president a “ditherer.” Cheney’s statements get wide media coverage, if only because they stand in such contrast with the reserve shown by former President George W. Bush. Again, the White House has reacted and taken to reminding voters about Cheney’s role in the last administration. Given Cheney left with a popularity index of less than 25%, the Obama people have taken to portraying him as the face of the Republican party. Since the inauguration, Obama strategists have been blessed to have Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and, once again, Dick Cheney as embodiments of the Republican party. Going after them seems to be working, too, as voter identification with the party is at 20%, its lowest point in 26 years. So far, their attacks have paid off. But is it the best approach in the long run?
Targeting a specific media outlet is always a risky venture—journalists have a solidarity that goes beyond the employer. Besides, the argument can be made that MSNBC is to the left what Fox is to the right. As for Cheney, the former vice-president lost his credibility in the rush to war in Iraq, the manipulation of intelligence behind the scenes, and the torture memos. Most see him as the sinister force behind the Bush White House. Still, he does have one card to play and it is the ever-present danger that a terrorist attack could take place on American soil under Obama’s watch.
The Obama campaign was successful because they stayed focused on the ultimate goal—to get Barack Obama elected. The goal of the Obama White House, on the other hand, is to be a successful administration. That means implementing healthcare reforms, including universal coverage, a public option, and an end to the excesses of the health insurance industry; making progress in the fight against climate change; instituting better protections for consumers in the financial sector; restoring America’s reputation in the world; ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; reducing the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea; bringing the economy back to stable growth; and, finally, putting in place a plan to bring down the deficit and the debt. That is the transformational change people voted for. All this will not necessarily get done necessarily in a first term, but enough progress can be made to building a strong case for re-election. Add in the personal popularity of the president and you have to wonder why the White House feels the need to bother with Republican sideshows.