The White House raised a lot of eyebrows earlier this week when it announced that President Obama was going to give an interview on FOX News. The conservative cable news network, with its nakedly partisan hosts and its commitment to promoting Tea Party demonstrations against the government, has been a thorn in the side of the Obama Administration from the time Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office. Last fall, David Axelrod, senior White House adviser and a former journalist himself, fired back at FOX News, saying , “they are not really a news organization.”
According to Newsweek, “a White House official told Mark Knoller of CBS Tonight that part of the motivation for the President’s appearance on FOX was a belief that many undecided House Democrats and their constituents watch it.”
Special Report anchor Bret Baier, who conducted the interview with President Obama Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, clutched his clipboard full of dog eared pages as if his life depended on it. A burly man, he appeared to be uncomfortable in his chair, often leaning forward from the edge of it as if he were about to jump up at any moment. The pained expression he had seemed painted on his face as he glanced at the clipboard before every question. But Baier’s most annoying habit was his tendency, almost from the very beginning of the interview, to start speaking in the middle of the president’s answers, as if he were interrogating a witness instead of interviewing the president of the United States.
Several times Obama chided Baier for breaking into his lengthy answers with follow-up questions.
“Bret, you’ve got to let me finish my answers,” Obama told Baier, the news channel’s White House correspondent during the Bush administration.
“Sir,” Baier responded, “I know you don’t like to filibuster, but …”
“Well,” Obama said in cutting him off again, “I’m trying to answer your question and you keep on interrupting.”
The exchanges during presidential debates were more cordial than this amateur attempt by Baier to play ambush journalist. If you were one of the few who had a shred of doubt about the FOX News network and its intention to combat the Obama Administration’s efforts with a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week on-air propaganda campaign, it should have disappeared last night. Playing to the folks in Peoria may be FOX’s prescription for short-term profits, but it completely destroys the few shreds of credibility they may have left.
From a tactical standpoint, this was a serious miscalculation by Axlerod and other White House advisors. Going into the final push to pass the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s legislative agenda, there was practically nothing to gain from appearing on FOX News. Having your president look presidential is more important right now than doing another healthcare dog-and-pony show. At this point, the public is locked in on where they stand in regard to healthcare reform. More attention should be paid to the House members who are undecided in these last few days.