He never complained about the media coverage he received.
But here is President Obama, riding high off victories in the general election (first Democratic to receive a majority vote in two straight contests since FDR) and the fiscal cliff (marginalizing John Boehner and fracturing the Republican Party in the process) inexplicably talking about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and lamenting how the poor state of discourse in political media today is affecting compromise in Washington.
Obama to The New Republic:
“One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.
“I think John Boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most Republican leaders are, and partly because he is vulnerable to attack for compromising Republican principles and working with Obama.
“The same dynamic happens on the Democratic side. I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this—are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.”
It is odd, and small, and disappointing to hear the President broach Fox News publicly (again) without mentioning its polar opposite, MSNBC. It was the latter that, on the week before the election, had 51% of stores about President Obama positive, with no negative stories… all while 68% of its stories about Mitt Romney were negative, with zero positive stories. At Fox it wasn’t much better; with 42 percent of its stories about Romney positive with 11 percent negative (Pew Research).
And that’s the point: BOTH networks engage in providing varying level red meat for its audience on a daily basis. But to call out one network and not the other squarely places Mr. Obama’s credibility on the issue into question. The President does mention the same dynamic happens on the Democratic side, but adds a disclaimer that those outlets “recognize compromise is not a dirty word.”
This commentary is troubling because:
(A) Why is the President watching so much cable news to have even the ability to formulate an opinion on this?
(B) How can he say (with a straight face) that he’s willing to buck the absolutist-wing elements of his party – along “with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi” – when Reid and Pelosi ARE the absolutist-wing elements of his party?
As for compromise, it was Boehner who led off negotiations with an offer that likely wasn’t approved by 90 percent of the audience at Fox News. From a “behind the scenes” story/recording at fiscal cliff talks via The Wall Street Journal:
Boehner: “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
Obama: “You get nothing. I get that for free.”
The President has many talents: Connecting with an audience through tremendous oratory skills is near the top. But his negotiation skills are in need of some serious work (if the above exchange and Bob Woodward’s scathing portrayal of the President’s inability to compromise in The Price of Politics is any indication).
To that end, failure to find common ground has absolutely nothing to do with Boehner being held hostage by producers, anchors or the audience at Fox News. Boehner’s initial outreach during the beginning of fiscal cliff negotiations only underscores that.
The interview was conducted (in part) by Chris Hughes, who had such a major role in Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign that he earned a cover story in Fast Company magazine titled “The Kid Who Made Obama President.”
So to review, we have a President complaining about media bias from one outlet and one commentator making American politics toxic…during an interview to a former key member of his campaign…who now owns a progressive outlet that almost never criticizes Administration policy.
If that isn’t hypocrisy, then… (insert joke here).
So here’s an easy prediction:
MSNBC will use the President’s comments on Monday to justify their view that Fox is untruthful, hopelessly biased, and ultimately responsible for destroying the country.
Fox viewers will get the reverse, with debate over how thin-skinned the President is or isn’t, how there are bigger problems to worry about than their network, and why it is crucial to offer a fair and balanced perspective to counter what the liberal mainstream media is otherwise offering.
If the President believes that serving up a one-sided analysis on the state of media will help break the gridlock he has greatly contributed to…
Well, he’s simply been watching too much TV to truly be paying attention.
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