Fox News 'truce' with White House is no victory for Obama

The shooting war between Fox News and the Obama Administration is over, at least for now. Officials from the two camps met for a parley on Wednesday, emerging with what's being described as a "truce."

A ceasefire is more like it -- if that. Both sides, having spent their ammunition and mussed their uniforms, have agreed to lay down their arms for a time and attend to other matters before resuming hostilities. But make no mistake: The hostilities will resume.
That much was guaranteed by the ratings performance for News Corp. (NWS)'s Fox since the throwdown began -- it's the only cable news network that didn't suffer a huge year-over-year viewership drop in October -- as well as by the pugnacious nature of its creator, Roger Ailes (pictured), who loves nothing more than a good scrap.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, has likened his rhetorical jabs at Fox to the high-and-inside throws of a pitcher determined to back a batter off the plate. But Ailes isn't the batter in this scenario -- he's the opposing manager. And if Team Obama throws beanballs at his guys, he's going to see to it that the other side hears a little chin music, too.

Think Ailes was in any way chastened by the White House's aggressive posturing? Consider what Fox News senior VP Michael Clemente did after his heart-to-heart with Gibbs, according to FishbowlDC: "Clemente then met with the FNC Washington bureau and encouraged staff to remain 'fair and balanced.'" "Fair and balanced" is, of course, the Fox News slogan. In other words, Clemente told them to stay the course.

I'm on record as believing Obama's offensive against Fox was a bad idea in the first place. And there are plenty of people who agree with me, or who at least think the vendetta should've been prosecuted with wry disdain rather than with obvious bitterness and open antagonism. That's not to say there was nothing to be gained from the effort. If the Administration's goal was primarily to undercut Fox's claim to objectivity, there's some evidence that it's succeeded: almost half of Americans now consider the network conservative, rather than neutral or liberal, according to the latest poll from Pew Charitable Trusts. Of course, the report doesn't say whether that number is up from recent years; meanwhile, a plurality of respondents said they believed CNN and MSNBC to be mostly liberal.

In any case, I can think of better ways the White House could've used the bandwidth. And any hope that Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity are going to start pulling their punches from now on is sorely misplaced.
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