I just took a deep breath and plunged into the president's interview on Fox News. The White House has previously called Fox "the communications arm of the Republican Party," which I think is a good description. So over the past day or so the White House has taken flak from the Left for legitimizing Fox by giving them a presidential interview and treating them like a real news organization. That's a fair criticism. But if the president meets with Republican politicians, from whom there is zero chance of good faith bargaining, what's the difference between that and giving an interview to Fox? Obama is dancing with the Devil not because he thinks he can persuade the Devil but because he thinks he might persuade other people (junior demons?). That's what the health care summit last month was about. There was no chance Republicans were going to be persuaded, even though Democrats have steadily thrown them concessions by weakening the bill at every turn.
Likewise, there was no chance Fox was going to give a fair interview. But after watching it, I think Obama did exactly what he intended to do. Bret Baier faithfully delivered the right wing's most recent talking points, and the president patiently responded with confident, sensible answers.
If you look at the questions Baier asked--and consider the ones he didn't--it's really telling about how narrowly the Right has framed this debate as we enter the home stretch. He began with a loaded question on parliamentary procedure, specifically the "slaughter rule," a scary term for an up or down vote. He moved on to loaded questions about "seedy deals" and arm twisting to ram the bill through. Then on to something like, "So, does your wife know you want to destroy Medicare? Yes or no?" Finally, there was an intentionally confusing question about the deficit. And that was pretty much it.
So in the world Fox is trying to create, the health care debate in America is really all about an out of touch Democratic majority and the trickery it works in back rooms to illegally foist an unwanted bill on America and sink us all in debt. Forget expanding coverage, forget affordability. (What are you, some kind of communist?) In other words, Fox is behaving true to form, because this is exactly the message we are hearing from corporate interests and the Republican Party right now.
But consider what Bret Baier did not ask President Obama:
- There was not a single question about insurance companies. Check the transcript. Bret Baier did not say the word "company" during the entire interview. Shoot, he didn't even say the word "insurance." (How is that even possible?)
- There was not a single question about about the uninsured. The word "uninsured" was never uttered.
- There was not a single question about premiums.
- There was not a single question about deductibles.
- There was not a single question about co-pays.
- There was not a single question about doctors.
- There was not a single question about hospitals.
- There was not a single question about prescription drugs.
It makes you wonder if Bret Baier even knew that he was doing an interview on health care reform. Maybe his ear piece malfunctioned, and he couldn't hear his instructions from Cheney. In reality, it's just a good illustration of how narrowly the right wing is framing the entire issue. It's like we got a glimpse of a Republican strategy memo for the final days of the HCR debate: "Focus on confusing process. Ignore substance and human life."