By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Sending Anita Dunn—who is probably not enjoying her proverbial 15 minutes of fame—out onto the north lawn of the White House to attack Fox News is serving its purpose.
The responsibility for determining which of the national news networks are legitimate and which ones are not is something the founders did not include in the executive powers section of the Constitution. One might even argue that the inclusion of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights is a pretty clear sign they thought that giving any part of the federal government the power to do so would not, to put it in modern terms, be a very good idea.
Nonetheless Dunn made her remarks and presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs is backing her up, despite the fact that even a few journalists inside the press briefing room are echoing complaints from the conservative rank and file that the White House has no business doing that sort of thing.
Give Obama's political team some credit. This is a fight they wanted to have, at the time they wanted to have because it is a distraction to their enemies.
It's always nice to have allies, especially when the powerful are talking trash about you. But it's not always necessary. With a 24-hour cable news channel, a talk radio network, some local television affiliates and several newspapers all together under the umbrella of its parent company News Corp, Fox doesn't really need any help in mounting a defense against the White House's charge that it is something other than a legitimate news organization. Just ask Van Jones, the former White House "Green Jobs Tsar" whose friends picked a fight with Fox's Glenn Beck and lost.
In reality the purpose underlying the fight with Fox takes advantage of conservatives who are afflicted with what might be called "Pay Attention Deficit Disorder," meaning they have trouble sticking to one issue for any length of time.
Consider that, up until now, the conservative opponents to the Obama agenda have been mounting a strong defense of their position. The "cap and trade" national energy tax bill, which only passed the House because the White House was willing to twist so many arms, came to a screeching halt when it got to the Senate. The healthcare reform bill, which President Obama initially insisted would be on his desk before the August congressional recess, may now live or die based on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's skill at legislative legerdemain. All because the conservative opposition remained largely united and focused on beating these two bills.
Now the White House is drawing conservative attention off onto other things. Some conservatives, particularly those based in the blogosphere, seem intent on making the special election for a congressional seat in upstate New York into some kind of leadership litmus test. Others think now is the time to engage in a winnowing of one group or another from the conservative ranks in order to reorient the movement along some new axis. And now, thanks to the White House's provocation, there are those who are spending time trying to motivate the public to act in defense of Fox.
You don't have to swing a dead cat to find a blogger or a pundit who will argue that each of these fights is supremely important to the long term future of conservatism in America. Without commenting on any of the possible outcomes of any of these debates or the merits of any of the arguments put forth on any side, let's stipulate that these issues are all important and the debates are worth having; however that doesn't make them all-important.
Conservatives, if they are to succeed in their effort to protect their own interests as well as the country's, need to keep their fire aimed in the right direction, which means keeping Obama and the Democrats from getting what they want most. The focus of their efforts should remain on opposing Obama and the Democrats in their efforts to nationalize and otherwise permanently wreck the U.S. economy with their healthcare and energy tax schemes. These are the fights that will determine the country's future.