The far right’s latest attack line on President Obama is not assubtle as they think it is. By calling his administration’s war of wordswith Fox News "beneath the presidency" –conservatives hope to add fuel to the fire of a potent and potentially racist, ideological effort to delegitimize the president. They’ve employed this tactic earlier but less histrionically when Obama became the first sitting president to appear on The Tonight Show and again when he courted the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, but it’s really taken off with regards to the Fox News fight.
Whether you believe the president is right or wrong to challenge Fox News (I happen to agree with Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, I believe he’s right), it’s pretty petty and profoundly ironic that the very people who excused George W. Bush’s frequent malapropisms, carefree warmaking and authorization of torture as bold leadership now hope to marginalize Obama for publicly rebuking Fox News. As Amanda Terkel of Think Progress points out:
Bush also called a New York Times reporter "a major league asshole" — and never apologized. In fact, Bush never gave the NYT a single interview throughout his presidency. The White House frequently went after NBC News, and Perino has admitted that they essentially froze out MSNBC "towards the end."
Perhaps it’s the fact that Obama has yet to suffer any mortal political wounds to date as president and his approval rating has yet to dip below 50 percent that has the right behaving so badly. Or perhaps, unlike say with the Olympics, Obama may be barking up the right tree by making the authenticity of Fox News the topic du jour. What is irrefutable is the fact that the likes of Dana Perino, John Boehner and Chris Wallace have no business lecturing anyone on how US presidents ought to behave.
Naturally, Fox News has hyped up the dispute, because ostensibly any publicity is good publicity for the network. But what might have seemed like a minor flare up between the White House and an unabashedly conservative news network has developed into an ongoing media soap opera, partially because the mainstream press loves reporting on itself (and inexplicably defending Fox News) but also because the far right clearly thinks they’ve seized onto something with this whole "beneath the presidency" routine. Nearly a year into his presidency, they still seem unwilling to accept his legitimacy as president. On one level that’s just sort of sad and pathetic but it’s also troubling because it reveals just how staunchly committed the opposition is to rooting for Obama’s failure–which in so many ways could mean our nation’s failure.
Progressives are, as usual, in a difficult position. There is much about Obama’s tenure to nitpick and criticize and as the healthcare reform struggle reaches a critical crossroads we should not stop applying pressure on the president to deliver on his campaign promises. But we also must call out the right on their hypocrisy and not allow them to diminish Obama’s presidency while ignoring their consistent support for a man who did more to tarnish the executive branch than possibly any other president in history.