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Obama Administration Blows Opportunity To Put Fox News On The Defensive

Reported by Ellen - May 23, 2010 -

Why, oh why are Democrats so eternally clueless when they appear on Fox News? That’s what I kept asking myself as I watched State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley do an excellent job of arguing his policy Friday night (5/21/10) on The O’Reilly Factor while completely failing to thwart Bill O’Reilly’s witch hunt against Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner. As I have previously posted, O’Reilly is unabashedly trying to hound Posner out of office and turn him into Fox News’ latest Van Jones and ACORN. Yet Crowley ignored that script and made the all-too-usual Democratic mistake of acting as though he were engaging in a substantive debate rather than as a player in Fox News’ political theater. I'm an ardent believer that Democrats must go on Fox, not boycott it. But when they do appear, it's crucial that they understand their role and how to play it. With video.

O’Reilly has made no secret of his anti-Posner crusade. This was at least O’Reilly’s third major attack on Posner. He has come under attack on other Fox News shows as well. The fact that Crowley was the guest for the show’s “Top Story” also indicated the seriousness with which O’Reilly (and Fox) are going after Posner. Yet Crowley, who is undoubtedly aware of what has been happening on Fox with regard to Posner, allowed that agenda to be the proverbial elephant in the living room. The result was that while Crowley focused on the substance of O’Reilly’s attacks, the larger meme – demonizing the Obama administration for "hiring radicals" – went largely unaddressed.

This came to a head at about the 4:40 mark in the video below, about a minute before the discussion ended.

BOR: Look, I’m not trying to embarrass you. I’m not. I want to understand why the man (Posner) has a job. Why he’s there.

PJC: Bill, this was a discussion with the Chinese. We weren’t negotiating anything.

BOR interrupting, shouting: No, Posner! Why did you hire Posner? Why hire a far-left zealot? Why?

PJC: He’s a human rights expert. He’s a compelling figure. He’s in Beijing today for follow-up meetings. We are going to press these issues with the Chinese and other countries, forcefully, often and repeatedly.

BOR: I don’t get why he’s hired… A guy makes radical statement, after radical statement, after radical statement. He’s funded by George Soros, the most radical guy in the country and you guys hire him and send him to Beijing. Was Raul Castro not available? I mean, come on.

PJC: Come on, Bill. Let’s have a rational conversation.

BOR: That was a wise guy comment but you’re not answering my question.

PJC: This guy is a human rights expert, a compelling advocate for human rights, not only around the world but also in the United States.

If Crowley doesn’t want to listen to me, he should at least consult Alan Colmes, probably the most-experienced Democratic advocate on Fox News. As I previously posted when Colmes debated O’Reilly and Monica Crowley on the same subject:

Colmes knew to reframe the issue immediately and put O’Reilly’s tactics on the hot seat – where they belonged. “You’re playing a game of guilt by association, Number One. Number two, you don’t like something he did. Let’s smear the guy. Let’s attack the guy. Let’s make him into a left-wing radical so we can attach him to Obama to prove that Obama’s a left-wing radical.”

Colmes’ turn-around worked, at least to some degree, because O’Reilly and Crowley were forced to defend their attacks. The subject remained on Posner, rather than demanding his resignation or the "radicals" in Obama's White House, which is surely where they had hoped to go. When it was Colmes’ turn again, O’Reilly asked if he agreed with Posner’s Japanese/Muslim comments. Colmes said he didn’t, but before anyone could say anything else, quickly added, “Wait a minute… We’re trying to find every way to attack this guy… You’re playing this guilt by association game because of Soros. This is totally unfair to this guy.”

As an official State Department spokesman, Crowley would use more formal language with more particulars about foreign policy, of course. But the strategy to reframe the debate could have and, in my view, should have been the same.

I don’t mean to sound harsh about Crowley who, as I previously said, did an excellent job otherwise. And I see no evidence that a Posner witch hunt has the same kind of staying power the attacks on Jones and ACORN did. But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that there will be another Posner and another and another on Fox News. The Obama administration has got to figure out a way to demand that the "fair and balanced" network show some sense of decency at long last.

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