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Instead Of Informing, Fox News Makes Political Theater Out Of Terrorism Issues

Reported by Ellen - December 30, 2009 -

Last night’s (12/29/09) Hannity featured as the top story a discussion that purported to be a debate about the use of profiling to prevent terrorism, presumably at airports. So why did Fox get two political strategists instead of someone with real security and/or aviation expertise? Why not find two people with experience with profiling who could report back on its pros and cons? The only answer is that Fox News producers didn’t really want to inform the viewers of the “we report, you decide” network. They wanted political theater. And, of course, the bad guys were the Democrats. With video.

Substitute host Rich Lowry set the tone at the beginning by taking a gratuitous swipe at Democrats’ security cred. After airing a clip of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) talking about the use of profiling, Lowry said, “Other members of the Democratic Party, though, have been a little more careless when it comes to airline security. The Washington Examiner is reporting today that back in July, embattled Senator Christopher Dodd actually slashed aviation security funding by 4 and a half million dollars. He funneled that money straight to the firefighters union which, coincidentally I’m sure, was an enthusiastic supporter of his failed presidential bid.”

Lowry forgot to mention that the funds were taken from TSA’s explosives detection systems which, as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air (hardly a liberal site) noted, has a long history of not working well. And Dodd did not, as Lowry said, funnel the money “straight to the firefighters union.” The money went to federal firefighter grants. Furthermore, it was not Dodd acting on his own but in concert with Senator Carper of Delaware and Fox News’ favorite, Joseph Lieberman.

After that little appetizer, Lowry got down to the main course of Democrat bashing. The guests for the segment were Democratic strategist Michael Brown and Republican strategist Karen Hanretty.

Why is it that only the Republicans seem clue into the Fox News game plan? Or, do the Democrats deliberately take a dive in order to keep up their on-screen appearances? Whatever the reason, Brown gave the kind of mild-mannered, milquetoasty performance that is the norm for Fox News Democrats. Brown said about profiling, “I’m not sure. I think we have to examine a little more of what Sheila Jackson Lee was talking about… Clearly, we have to do things better. But I think the profiling is not necessarily the answer. I mean, how do you profile against Timonth McVeighs of the world… I don’t know if that’s necessarily just the answer.” Now that is a reasonable opinion and the kind of thing that I’d agree with if I heard it at a dinner party. But, just like you can’t conduct stage dialogue the same way you would speak at, say, a dinner party, when on Fox, you have to perform if you want to be effective. I can’t believe that Brown, who has been a regular on the network for years, doesn’t get that.

Hanretty, on the other hand, had her moves down. Before she even spoke, she was shaking her head and smiling derisively at Brown. First, she distorted Brown’s words (without objection from him) by characterizing his opinion as, “If you can’t catch every terrorist… you shouldn’t attempt to catch any terrorist.” Then she added, “When Neo-Nazis start blowing up airplanes in the United States, you know what? We’ll start profiling bald people with a lot of tattoos who don’t like Jews and black people. How’s that?”

Hanretty didn’t stop there, of course. She went on to attack Democrats for wanting to “unionize the Transportation (Security) Administration.”

Brown said at some later point, “Keep in mind, this system has been in place through the Bush years.”

That’s the mildest of rebukes, of course. But, predictably, Lowry got hissy over it. “Here we go,” he said snottily. He said to Hanretty, “You have the Obama folks pointing fingers immediately. This is their first reaction to everything, back at the Bush administration.”

“Everything,” Hanretty agreed.

And Brown sat there, as they say, like a latke (pancake), without mentioning any of the hypocritical partisanship Lowry and Hanretty were foisting on the “fair and balanced” network’s viewers. He didn’t point out how Lowry had just gratuitously attacked Chris Dodd a propos of nothing related to profiling. He didn’t point out their hypocrisy given that Fox News has turned into a 24/7 blame Obama machine. He didn’t point out that Republican Congressmen Peter Hoekstra and Peter King made beelines to politicize the thwarted attack - and on Fox News, as a matter of fact. Nor did Brown point out how Republicans have blamed Clinton for 9/11 through the years. And while he was at it, Brown could have pointed out how certain people on Fox News (think Sean Hannity) attacked anyone criticizing George Bush “while troops are in harm’s way” and how that concern for our troops' welfare seems to have vanished when Barack Obama took office.

Hanretty, of course, continued with her snappy, attack soundbites. “What we had was a complete failure of intelligence sharing… At the end of the day, Obama needs to come out and admit… that he is not the savior of the world, that if liberals rule America, we will not be 100% safe.”

Brown chuckled.