The sitdown between Obama's man and Murdoch's man took place about a month ago. It was a "cordial conversation" over coffee while the president was in Manhattan for a UN session. But nobody backed down, and now the White House is in an all-out struggle with a media outfit known for a willingness to brawl.
The topic of conversation between David Axelrod, Obama's chief political adviser, and Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News for media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, was "news coverage and the relationship between the two organizations," Politico's Mike Allen learned. A Fox spokesman confirmed that a talk took place, Allen said.
But the daily hostility toward Obama served up by Fox continued unabated and finally the White House had had enough. Anita Dunn, a White House spokeswoman, on Sunday took to CNN's airwaves to blister Fox News as essentially an "arm of the Republican Party."
"We're going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent," Dunn told the New York Times for Monday's editions. Accusing Fox of "undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House," she asserted that it was pointless "to pretend that this is the way legitimate news organizations behave."
A Fox executive told the Times that Ailes had remarked: "Don't pick a fight with people who like to fight."
Fox tried to defend itself by saying that the White House wasn't distinguishing between commentary and regular news coverage. However, many professional journalists have strongly criticized the Murdoch press for coloring news coverage for political purposes. [Please see "Fox News: trumpet of Israel's hard right" at http://www.angelfire.com/az3/nfold/rupert.html.]
Before Murdoch hired him to run Fox, Ailes was a top-level political operative in the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And Fox News was warmly embraced by the second Bush White House.
Fox snubbed Obama by refusing to air his address to Congress and by blacking out a White House news conference. Obama returned the snub by declining to appear on Fox News Sunday while showing up on the other major Sunday news telecasts.
Fox's Glenn Beck ramped up the verbal firefight by accusing the White House of being more interested in fighting a war with Murdoch than with winning in Afghanistan. But Fox quoted neither Ailes nor Murdoch concerning the grudge match.
There's no love lost between Obama and Murdoch, of course. Murdoch promoted Obama in hopes that McCain would do better against him than against Clinton. (Murdoch once promoted Ted Kennedy against President Carter and then trashed Kennedy at the last minute, successfully assisting Republican presidential prospects.)
The White House decision to fight fire with fire and openly treat Fox as a political adversary comes amid the congressional wrangling over health care and may well be a tactic meant to aid in that struggle. If Fox can be politically neutralized, or at least weakened, lawmakers may not feel quite so timorous when contending with Fox's shouting heads. It may be that the White House hopes to form a united Democratic front against Murdoch, Ailes and Fox, especially when one considers that most of the GOP opposition in Congress fits hand-in-glove with the Fox slant.
But what can Axelrod and Dunn do against the daily Fox onslaught? The White House, one suspects, will have to find ways to go after Murdoch and Fox via "back channel" methods. What these might be, who knows? Other than that Obama is likely to curtail anything illegal that could blow up on him. Even so, the Bush-era wiretap laws are now in the hands of people who might well be tempted to listen in on the doings of Murdoch -- and such eavesdropping could easily be justified by Murdoch's penchant for peculiar relations with Chinese communists.
Another point: the Murdoch press has led the way in defending the traitors behind 9/11 by ignoring facts and through the use of cheap name-calling and smear tactics, exactly the methods used against the Obama White House. An open breach means Obama needn't worry about offending the Murdoch treason group. So we may expect that the White House may become a tad more daring in distancing itself from the Murdoch theory of 9/11. (See previous post.)
Addenda: Robert Parry points out that the insurance industry is inadvertently making a very strong case for a public health care option. See his OpEd News piece at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Insurers-Make-Case-for-Pub-by-Robert-Parry-09012-787.html. Also, the White House contends that the Hyde amendment will bar use of the health care system for abortions but critics say that the health care bills in Congress circumvent the Hyde amendment.