In its grand tradition of creating news stories ranging from the useless to the misleading, Politico’s lead story today concerns Obama’s strategy of “marginaliz[ing] critics.” This headline — by reporting as extraordinary an event that defines American politics — has the rare virtue of occupying both extremes simultaneously. Good for Politico!
The article targets the Obama Administration’s new approach to Fox News — openly criticize biased coverage where it occurs — as an example of the administration (unfairly?) marginalizing its critics. This new policy has been widely publicized and critiqued, and really, that’s probably a sign that it’s not working as well as it could. But let’s not pretend for a minute that marginalizing one’s opponents is a practice unique to Obama, now or in previous administrations. The practice of rhetorical marginalization is neither original nor unique to Obama, and his opponents have made far, far worse careers of it:
- Bush administration officials — especially Karl Rove — routinely branded opponents as “unpatriotic.”
- Fox News has made a habit of referring to Obama as a “socialist,” a “communist,” a “fascist,” a “racist,” and a “Nazi.” All of these attacks have been duplicated by other pundits, many of whom have also openly questioned Obama’s citizenship.
- Republicans generally question Democrats’ patriotism, and even their sense of belonging to America.
All of the above tactics are far, far worse than the administration’s attempts to delegitimize Fox News. They’re examples of a few pundits playing on the most basic fears of the American people, to distort, mischaracterize, and destroy ideological opponents. Obama’s tactics have the virtue of being substantially more polite, civilized, and — well — accurate.
Really, then, the story isn’t that Obama is “marginaliz[ing his] most powerful critics.” It’s that the administration is finally through letting itself be marginalized, and viciously slandered.