It was almost Sarah Palin, then it was talk show gasser Rush Limbaugh, and now it's the Fox Network. President Obama's seemingly obsessive need to devote one second of time and mention to attacking his arch enemies reminds me of those cop and robber movies where the bad guys pull off the perfect heist. They snatch millions and then instead of taking the money and running they start squabbling among themselves over who gets what, or who doesn't like whom. That's their undoing.
President Obama's plate groans with Iran, health care, the financial crisis, the cap and trade battle, the surge in hate violence, and yet he gets himself worked up over of all things the Fox Network. And believe me, the Fox crew love every minute of it. There's good reason for that. When Obama and the Democrats took the ill-fated step and made Limbaugh their punching bag, the Media Research Center found that the top talk show gabber's ratings went through the roof. Radio affiliates that carry Limbaugh's syndicated show were in ecstasy with what they called the "dramatic surge" in the show's ratings. No one was more giddy at the Obama attack than Limbaugh. He milked it for all it was worth and hasn't stopped.
No matter what the topic Limbaugh harangues on, he slides in a reference to Obama's prop up of him as the Democrat's prize whipping boy. This further coronates him as the defacto mouthpiece for the GOP, further sets in stone GOP opposition to anything that Obama and the Democrats came up with, and gives the legions that thrive on Limbaugh's anti-Obama bile, more fodder to pound him on the airwaves, in chat rooms, websites, and even more despicably in race baiting cartoons, emails, Facebook and twitter posts.
Now there's Obama's Fox smack down. Fox almost certainly will steal a page from Limbaugh and turn Obama's attacks into a ratings bonaza playbook. In fact, even before Obama dignified their drumbeat attacks on him with an angry word about the cable station, Fox did just that.
According to Neilson Media Research for the first quarter in 2009, Fox trampled CNN in the ratings. In every news and talk show category, it was the runaway cable leader. It had its third best quarter ever in the ratings. In all, it was the second-most-watched network in primetime (USA was first). CNN ranked a distant 17th and MSNBC and even more distant 24th. In news coverage, the gap between Fox and MSNBC, sometimes erroneously mistaken for the Obama cheerleader station, was even more embarrassing. Fox News was the 5th and MSNBC the 28th most watched. The Obama broadside won't do anything to damp down Fox's big numbers.
The rub is that Obama knows that it's always a lose-lose to get down and dirty with an attacker. When Republican rival John McCain plopped Sarah Palin on the ticket, some Team Obama members instantly went negative on her. Obama wisely and quickly stopped that dead in its tracks. He issued a perfunctory complimentary word of congratulations on the Palin VP pick and then promptly zipped the official campaign lip on her. His opponent was McCain not Palin, and he kept the focus and the heat on him.
Fox will be Fox. It will continue to crusade against anything and everything he proposes. Obama's snipe at the network won't do anything to change that. It will only shove Fox's ratings upward. And the president certainly has better things to do than to aid and abet Fox.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com
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