Yesterday, Fox found a new way to use the (burnished) memory of Ronald Reagan to attack President Obama’s reaction to the MH17 crash. This time, it involved “presidential historian” Jane Hampton Cook who, it just so happens, worked for George W. Bush for five years. That detail was not provided to the “we report, you decide” network’s viewers.
This is at least the third time Cook has appeared on Fox and been given the neutral description of “presidential historian” without her professional Republican affiliation.
Yesterday, host Neil Cavuto played clips of Presidents Obama and Reagan speaking after the respective tragedies.
Cavuto began the discussion by “asking,” “Do you notice a difference? Historian Jane Hampton Cook certainly does.”
COOK: Passion. Ronald Reagan had passion, and he was a student of the Soviet Union. He’d really studied and read up on them and really understood who he was dealing with, and he used terms like barbaric, savagery, he used the term massacre three times in that speech, and you have pivot coming from President Obama. You have very muted mild language in comparison between the two Presidents.
Cavuto made a stab at balance by saying, “Many critics at the time said his delayed response days after the downing of the South Korean jetliner was problematic.” But then Cavuto said to Cook that a speech after such an event “had better count for something right?”
Cook noted that we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes and that maybe the “milder language” from Obama might be due to some negotiatons the U.S. is engaged in. However, she sounded more politico and less historian when she added, “It seems like President Obama could step it up some and not hurt himself.”
“Very cautious approach,” Cavuto said. It didn’t sound like a compliment. He later characterized Obama’s response as a “passive, almost medicinal approach.”
Later, Cavuto pumped for more. He said to Cook, “I like what you were saying there, that emotions sometimes counts for a lot, really enraged and showing it, counts for a lot.”
“That’s right it does,” Cook agreed. “It shows passion and care, it shows care.”
Cavuto gave her the stamp of approval as he closed the segment: “Jane Hampton Cook, historian extraordinaire.”
What did Cavuto and Cook want President Obama to do? Yell, scream, and go up to the camera and threaten Putin physically? Leave it to Fox’s Chris Wallace to explain in part. “As somebody who covered the White House and saw for 6 years Ronald Reagan in various situations, sometimes the best thing Presidents can do is nothing.” He said President Reagan “didn’t want to leave” his Santa Barbara ranch after the 1983 airline shooting. “His advisers realized how terrible this looked, and eventually persuaded him he had to fly back to Washington and had to give this speech to the nation, but it did take him four days.”
Watch this typical example of how Fox stages a discussion to make it look “fair and balanced” when the outcome was rigged at the booking of the guest. Underneath that is Jon Stewart's funny takedown of previous right-wing efforts to use Ronald Reagan against Obama in their MH17 crash reporting.