You have to hand it to Fox. There is an amazing coordination of messaging, from morning to night and night to morning. In about thirty minutes today, I watched three segments that serve to demonstrate how that special brand of Fox journalism works.
First, I have to start with last night. Charles Krauthammer said on Special Report that the Obama administration is suffering from a “crisis of competence,” and that when you take all the problems with the various government agencies, the IRS, the VA, and now the Secret Service, and put them together, “you get a sense that things are out of control.”
This morning on America’s Newsroom, “journalist” Bill Hemmer hosted a segment about the problems in the Secret Service. Just before Hemmer introduced Krauthammer’s comments from last night, he said this:
A lot of this now raising questions about whether the Obama team is simply capable.
In case you don’t watch Fox that often, that “now raising questions” trope is very common on the network. It is a way of disguising as news what simply is tendentious speculation and commentary. The questions being raised about the capability of the “Obama team” are, of course, all coming from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer. It’s pretty slick how it works. Slick, I mean, if you consider Fox’s target audience, most of whom think they are watching real news develop right before their eyes. Krauthammer makes a provocative and obviously biased statement on a so-called straight news program in the evening, and on another so-called straight news program the next day, his commentary is presented as news, via that “raising questions” device.
After his intro, Hemmer then plays a clip of Krauthammer’s comments, which sets up an interview with Rich Lowry, editor of the right-wing National Review. And Lowry is not appearing on Fox so he can provide a fair and balanced look at Krauthammer’s “crisis of competence” claim. No, sir. He is there to reinforce the message:
LOWRY: This is the central irony of the Obama administration, Bill. These are people who believe in government, who want to make government bigger, and more complex, and yet they have presided over a series of astonishing government failures. And it just makes you wonder what other failures are lurking in government agencies that we haven’t heard about yet.
HEMMER: Hmm. Like what?
LOWRY: [Surprised] Well, we don’t know. But Charles made a very good point, Bill…
Yes, a very good point, indeed.
In yet another segment, about 8 minutes later, the Obama-hating daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz, also referenced the Krauthammer comment and spoke of “the incompetence of this president across a whole range of issues.” Krauthammer should get a special commission for providing so much chatter fodder for Fox. (As an aside, Liz told us that Obama and his political allies “are not doing their job in terms of trying to keep this nation safe.” That coming from the daughter of a man who was Vice President during the worst terrorist attack against this country in its history, while President Obama has in fact kept the country safe.)
My final example of this kind of phony Fox journalism came from a third segment this morning on the utterly misnamed America’s Newsroom. This time the host of the segment was Martha Maccallum, who also pretends to be a straight journalist on Fox. The organizing principle of this segment was something Karl Rove said on Greta Van Susteren’s program last night. Maccallum began the segment this way:
Some critics are saying that President Obama needs to take more responsibility for his handling of the growing ISIS threat. Here is Karl Rove on that last night:
Before we get to what Rove said, notice that intro: “Some critics are saying.” That is another way for Fox producers to present commentary as news. With an introduction like that, one could offer up anything, absolutely anything, and the gullible folks in the Fox audience will think they are actually watching real news. The entire segment was based on and focused on Rove’s comments from the night before. The entire thing.
What Rove said was the usual stuff about how the President could no longer “skate by” with blaming Bush for all his troubles. He also said that the President could “get bigger” and “look stronger if he takes responsibility on himself.” You get the idea. Referring to Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Rove said Obama should not have “thrown James Clapper under the bus” and instead shouldered the blame himself for underestimating ISIL.
Now, I can’t go any further with my presentation of coordinated phony Fox journalism without bringing to your attention what President Obama actually said about James Clapper on 60 Minutes last Sunday. Obama did not throw Clapper, who is the Director of National Intelligence, under the bus. Here, in fact, is what he said in response to a Steve Kroft question about ISIL:
OBAMA: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.
KROFT: I mean, he didn’t say that, just say that, we underestimated ISIL. He said, we overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi army, to fight.
OBAMA: That’s true. That’s absolutely true.
As you can see, Clapper had no tire tracks on him after that rather mild claim. But Obama was accused, based on that short exchange, of denying all responsibility. Fox has been particularly focused on that comment about our intelligence community underestimating ISIL, especially since some “top U.S. intelligence official” leaked to Fox “a memo to staff” that supposedly exonerated Clapper and our intelligence apparatus. The problem is that Clapper did actually say that our intelligence analysts underestimated the strength of ISIL, as well as overestimated the capability of the Iraqi army. But why let facts get in the way of the message you are peddling to the gullible?
With that out of the way, we can now proceed to more of Fox ignoring reality. After playing Rove’s comments, Maccallum brings into our living rooms Doug Schoen, who gets paid by Fox to pretend to be a Democrat, and Monica Crowley, who gets paid by Fox to look good and to pretend to be an insightful right-winger. As the segment proceeded, Schoen said that his take on what Rove said was,
that we are all Americans. This is not about assessing blame or parsing responsibility. It’s coming together for common purpose to take on a common enemy. I think that’s what we need to do and that’s what the President should have done.
Yes, Karl is the perfect guy to lecture us about not assessing blame. Good ol’ Turd Blossom would never do anything so, uh, un-American. Beyond that, though, if you bothered to look at that 60 Minutes interview, you would see that not only did President Obama not do what Rove accused him of doing, but he did do what Schoen accused him of not doing. Confusing stuff, yes. But as I said, facts and Fox don’t mix.
For her part, Monica Crowley did what she is paid to do. She looked good and she pretended to offer us insights from a right-wing perspective. One of her insights was this gem:
I think this goes back to his original mission when he entered the presidency, which was…the fundamental transformation of the nation, which had two basic pillars. One, socialized medicine, which he got through. And, two, retrenchment of world power, of American power in the world, which he also got through. And now you have the sense that he believes that since he’s done both, at least both are rolling along nicely for him, that his work here is done. That he can essentially sit back for the next two years and say, “Well, I’ll tinker at the margins and manage it, but, you know, the big work is already over.”
Instead of laughing at that bit of doo-doo, instead of apologizing to her audience for presenting to them such lunacy on what is billed as a fair and balanced news program, how do you suppose “journalist” Martha Maccallum responded to that nonsense? She legitimated it by saying:
MACCALLUM: Unfortunately we’re not living in a “tinkering at the margins” moment in history.
The final right-wing insight provided by Monica Crowley in this segment came after a question about who was giving advice to President Obama about his “legacy.” This led Crowley to assert that Obama has never had any “wise men or wise women around him” to tell him what he needs to hear. He has limited himself to his wife, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and “maybe one or two other people.” This, she said—and I kid you not—was,
a direct result of Barack Obama’s essential narcissism, where he believes that nobody is smarter than he is, nobody knows better than he does, so therefore he really doesn’t have to listen to anybody else.
And there you have it. This “news” segment began with, “Some critics are saying.” It featured Karl Rove’s comments last night mischaracterizing something President Obama said. Then, based on Rove’s erroneous comments, claims were presented that Obama is a narcissist who has socialized medicine and weakened the nation and is now resting from his work. Finally, the segment ended with the phony journalist who was hosting this madness again validating all of it by saying this:
MACCALLUM: As Karl Rove says, you can make a change. You can take the bull by the horns and you can become bigger, as Karl believes the President needs to do. We’ll see what the American people think and how he responds. Doug, Monica, always good to talk to you both. Thanks very much, guys. See ya next time.
Yep. There will most certainly be a next time. All day, every day. All night, every night.