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Bill Mann

Bill Mann

Posted: September 7, 2009 11:08 AM

Problem With Obama's 'Rope a Dope' Strategy? Too Many Media Dopes


Here's the problem if President Obama is indeed using, as some have suggested, a "rope-a-dope" strategy on his loudmouthed political and health-care opponents in Congress and especially, in the media:

There are at least four dopes punching him. Muhammad Ali only had one.

On top of right wing-dominated talk radio and Fox News-sance, add two more cable networks that are now haranguing the President about badly needed health care and financial reform:

Fox Business, Prince Rupert Murdoch's low-rated but ascendant answer to CNBC, which has been sounding more and more like Roger "Rove's Brain" Ailes' venomous, disreputable Fox News every day.

And now add formerly apolitical CNBC, on which free-market loudmouth Larry Kudlow has been constantly attacking business regulation. He's been joined by CNBC principal news anchor Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo, who didn't exactly cover herself with glory last week, asking 45-year-old Democrat/public-option backer Rep. Anthony Weiner why he didn't take Medicare if he liked government-run programs so much.

So, there are plenty of media dopes for Obama to deal with, to say nothing of their audiences. All these media outlets feature loudmouths with big megaphones, and a lack of decency or any allegiance to facts.

It's mostly a one-sided battle. On the progressive side, there are some (mostly low-power) liberal AM talk stations and MSNBC (except for "Morning Joe" and all MSNBC's unseemly crime and prison shows).

"We're fighting an uphill battle against a large, entrenched right-wing media machine, and it's going to take years to reverse the trend. So progressives have to work a lot harder,"
said thoughtful Air America radio Thom Hartmann recently. He's right, and he's not overstating the problem.

I've been watching this accretion of extreme right-wing media power for years as I've covered TV and radio for several major newspapers. Not much has been said of the big picture, how an increasingly one-sided message has shaped policy and caused major problems for liberal Democrats. (An aside to righty readers: While there may be as many liberals as conservatives working in the media, it's not libs who OWN the media)

Tuesday's speech to school kids by the President provides a perfect example. A few years ago, radio and TV stations would have aired it without thinking twice. The crackpots -- and that's what they are (racists is such a nasty word) -- would never have gotten their ridiculous message out, that this was a "political indoctrination" speech.

But the media has changed, big-time. It's now a powerful megaphone clearly dominated -- and often owned by -- right-wing political extremists, bigots and outright loonies.

So what does this leave our media-besieged President? The powerful bully pulpit, one he's hardly used so far, unlike FDR Pres. Obama badly needs to start using his considerable media and oratorical skills to cut through the right-wing noise and nuttiness. This week would be a good time to start. To go on the attack against the extremists who clearly dominate so much of the media debate.

Now, it's all too easy for Huffington Post readers, especially younger adults, to downplay the importance of TV and radio.

"Who listens to radio anymore?" is something I hear often. Lots of people, I tell them. Especially those in their cars commuting.

"Who watches TV any more?" I hear from heavy net consumers who now get their limited TV doses from Hulu and YouTube.

My answer to this: Try driving or walking around a couple of nearby neighborhoods some night. Notice the glow coming from 80 percent of homes? Those aren't computer screens.

To fight the persistent problem of right-wing extremists -- that's exactly what they are -- using their considerable leverage in cable-TV and radio to dominate the political debate, one must first acknowledge it exists.

And to counter it, the President needs to use TV to punch back -- forcefully. Time to go after all those dopes.

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