Monday, October 12, 2009


Benen: HOW IT'S DUNN....
Time's Michael Scherer had a piece this week about the White House's media strategy, and the realization in the West Wing that much of the political discourse has gone mad.
Different staffers came to the realization at different times. For Roberts Gibbs, it was the NYT's front-page piece on "outrage" over the president encouraging kids to do well in school. For Dan Pfeiffer, it was "death panel" nonsense. "When you are having a debate about whether or not you want to kill people's grandmother," he said, "the normal rules of engagement don't apply." And for Communications Director Anita Dunn, it was the Washington Post's two blatantly misleading op-eds on "czars."
The president's team made a conscious decision to become more aggressive. "The best analogy is probably baseball," says Gibbs. "The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move."
Dunn has led the charge on this, specifically going after Fox News. She told Scherer, "It's opinion journalism masquerading as news."

Faiz Shakir reported that on CNN this morning, Howard Kurtz followed up on Dunn's assertion, and fortunately, she didn't back down:
"The reality of it is that Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it's not ideological. I mean, obviously there are many commentators who are conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. What I think is fair to say about Fox is -- and certainly the way we view it -- is that it really is more of a wing of the Republican Party. [...]
"They're widely viewed as, you know, a part of the Republican Party -- take their talking points, put them on the air, take their opposition research, put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network they way CNN is."
I don't doubt these comments will cause a stir at the GOP news network, but given how obviously, painfully accurate Dunn's observations are, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how the channel denies what is plainly true.
I suppose that's part of the overall frustration with Fox News. Grown-ups living in reality should be able to simply acknowledge reality -- the network is an appendage to the Republican Party. The pretense is paper thin. Reasonable people should be able to acknowledge this plain fact without it being controversial.
Dunn added, "Obviously [the president] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again.... When he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition."
Given that Fox News has described itself has the voice of the opposition, here's hoping Dunn's blunt and honest assessment doesn't become too controversial.
Josh Marshall: Projection?
Fox News responding to White House criticism: "It's astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming."
The right-wing "Tea Party" activists are, obviously, deeply opposed to the Obama White House's policies and the Democratic agenda in general. But Alex Isenstadt reports that they're not especially pleased with the state of the Republican Party, either. Apparently, the Teabaggers think the GOP is too moderate.
While the energy of the anti-tax and anti-Big Government tea party movement may yet haunt Democrats in 2010, the first order of business appears to be remaking the Republican Party.
Whether it's the loose confederation of Washington-oriented groups that have played an organizational role or the state-level activists who are channeling grass-roots anger into action back home, tea party forces are confronting the Republican establishment by backing insurgent conservatives and generating their own candidates -- even if it means taking on GOP incumbents.
In advance of the 2010 midterms, Republican Party leaders are making recruiting, endorsement, and targeting decisions based on some sense of political pragmatism. Tea Partiers, apparently, aren't especially concerned with the party leaders' preferences, and are backing like-minded candidates, even those taking on GOP incumbents.
As organizers and activists see it, the Republican Party-backed candidates just aren't reliable enough, so Teabaggers are exerting their influence and deemphasizing the notion of a GOP congressional majority. "It's an outgrowth of the frustration people have had with the Republican Party," said Andrew Moylan, director of governmental affairs for the National Taxpayers Union, a group that has played a large role in organizing the tea party movement. "I think a lot of people have been angry at Republicans for betraying our trust."
RedState's Erick Erickson told Isenstadt that Tea Party activists should "put down the protest signs" and "start infiltrating the party," including staging takeovers of local Republican parties.
Now, the notion of hostilities between right-wing activists and really right-wing activists is, to a certain extent, entertaining. State and local Republican parties are already pretty unhinged -- pick a state GOP platform at random and read it -- but that's apparently insufficient.
But the part of this that's really remarkable to me is the notion that the Republican Party of 2009 is just too darn reasonable and open to compromise with those sneaky Democrats, as far as this crowd is concerned.
Yes, the recovery-opposing, nominee-blocking, ACORN-hunting, Fox News-following, health care-rejecting, gay bashing, global warming-denying, scorched earth-raging Republican Party isn't far enough to the right for the Teabggers.
This isn't to say the activists don't have the right to try to take over their party, and drive it over the right-wing cliff. It's their call -- political parties should reflect the values and priorities of their members. But the road to recovery for the Republican Party is to move back towards the American mainstream. The activist base seems to have a far different agenda in mind.

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