Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue.
But I don’t understand why the White House would give such poisonous helium balloons as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity the opportunity for still greater spasms of self-inflation by declaring war on Fox.
If the problem is that stories bloated far beyond their actual importance–ACORN’s corruption, Van Jones’s radical past–are in danger of leaching out of the Fox hothouse into the general media, then perhaps the Administration should be a bit more diligent about whom it hires and whom it funds.
If the problem is broader–that Fox News spreads seditious lies to its demographic sliver of an audience–the Administration should probably be stoic: the wingnuts will always be with us. The best antidote to their garbage is elegant, intelligent governance. The next-best antidote is occasional engagement: I thought Obama came away from his O’Reilly and Chris Wallace interviews much the better for it. (Though you don’t want to sit down with a thug like Hannity or a weirdo like Beck.)
The problem with war is that it diverts attention from the actual news. The Administration has tried to pursue a sophisticated, difficult domestic and foreign policy. It doesn’t offer the quick-fix irresponsibility of a tax cut or an invasion. It needs space, time and patience to explain. This is an enervating, midstream moment. It’s not certain that the President’s efforts from health care to Afghanistan will succeed. We’ll know a lot more in a month, but I really hope the White House hasn’t launched this attack to fill the public space while the other issues are being sorted out. The long-term costs of stooping to Fox’s level are not just bad posture; they are a diminution of the office and its primary occupant.