Attacking Fox News Won't Help the White House With Depressed Liberals

Cutting off media outlets is not a smart strategy for the White House.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The White House has made a dramatic strategy shift: isolate and attack the enemy.

The enemy for the White House, however, is not the Taliban or al-Qaeda. It's the Fox News Channel.

Late last month a posting on the official White House blog criticized Fox for what it called a "disregard for the facts," "an attempt to smear the Administration's efforts to win the Olympics for the United States," "a partisan attack" and referred readers to a separate webpage to follow "more Fox lies."

Such pointed criticism is unusual, especially coming as a written statement from the White House.

On Sunday, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn ratcheted up the rhetoric.

"It's certainly fair to say about Fox, and certainly the way we view it, is that it is a wing of the Republican Party," Dunn told CNN's "Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz, before claiming the network "operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."

One statement or blog post could be an aberration, but a second statement coming from a senior White House staffer (which followed previous anti-Fox statements from Dunn) demonstrate a clear pattern.

Undercutting her argument, Dunn said the White House has not ruled out having President Barack Obama sit down with Fox for future interviews, though she claimed the an interview would be akin to a debate with "the opposition."

In other words, when the White House sees an opportunity to gain something, then Obama might grant the network an audience.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both Obama and Hillary Clinton sought interviews on The O'Reilly Factor, hoping that reaching out to the network's massive audience might help their respective campaigns. Indeed, while Clinton was unsuccessful in defeating Obama in the North Carolina primary, her interview on the program was an important, and smart, part of her larger media strategy. More recently, Bill O'Reilly was supportive of Obama's efforts to secure the Olympics for Chicago.

Cutting off a media outlet can be a risky strategy. It can reduce the voice and effectiveness of a politician or a party. But the Obama administration chose a riskier strategy—to ostracize and attack a media outlet and its viewing audience.

With the liberal base depressed—as evidenced by thousands of gay rights supporters marching on Washington this weekend—the administration has made a political decision to re-appeal to its base.

It's not likely to work, however. The far-left may love potshots at O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, but it loves a healthcare public option, card check, and closing Gitmo even more.

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