Foxes and chickens
The impact of the Fox News Network was felt recently during the Democratic National Convention.
As it turned out, the Democrats had not included the word God in their platform. Nor had they promoted Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Fox pundits were aghast. Actually, that seems to be their natural state when discussing anything involving Democrats, so it’s tough to tell the difference. For several days, they ranted about the Democratic platform as though it had come direct from the devil incarnate.
This is Fox’s everyday strategy, but what was more notable was the response of the Democrats. In a sane world, they might have told Fox that religion is a personal matter and God need not be discussed in the political platform of a secular nation.
Also in a sane world, someone might have mentioned that Jerusalem is not the internationally recognized capital of Israel. In fact, virtually no one outside Israel and the United States considers it so.
While the Israeli government has moved most of its government functions to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv remains the recognized capital in the eyes of most of the world. Most foreign embassies remain there, including the American one.
The status of Jerusalem is a controversial issue, but Israel’s annexation of the eastern portion of the city is unquestionably illegal. As a holy site for three major world religions, Jerusalem is of value to a large portion of the world’s population and should be treated as such.
But this wasn’t the Democrats response. Rather, they went into their typical panic mode and introduced amendments to their platform at the recent convention.
What happened next is even more shameful. Amendments to the platform require a two-thirds vote. As the voice vote of delegates was taken, video shows at least as many voices shouting “No” as those voting “Aye”.
Nonplussed, Mayor Villarraigosa called for the vote a second time, with a similar result.
Visibly shaken, he then called for a third vote, with identical voices sounding from the arena, just slightly louder. Following the pre-scripted statement on the teleprompter, the mayor then declared “In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative. The motion has been adopted and the platform has been amended.”
A predictable and justified chorus of boos followed.
The undemocratic turn of events was bad enough, though hardly unprecedented. (The Republicans had a similar moment as Ron Paul delegates were marginalized and walked out off the floor in disgust).
But the bigger issue is why the Democrats care so much what Fox News thinks. Time and time again, Fox screams and the president’s party caves. Why?
Just a couple of cases are needed to demonstrate the point. Van Jones was the president’s adviser on green jobs. But former Fox host Glen Beck made it his personal mission to push him out. Night after night, Beck railed against Jones with a variety of charges, several of them false, and most involving wild conspiracy theories.
Jones’ work as an environmental advisor was never in question, but he didn’t get to make much progress on it. Caving to Fox pressure, the administration pushed Jones out in September 2009.
Another case is equally illustrative. Shirley Sherrod was an official with the Department of Agriculture. In July 2010, the right wing website biggovernment.com posted a deceptively edited video of a speech she gave to the NAACP which seemed to suggest that Sherrod had discriminated against a white farmer she was assigned to help.
Fox News jumped on the story quickly and Bill O’Reilly called for her resignation. By the time his show aired though, it was too late. The Obama administration hadn’t even waited for the impending Fox News storm and had already asked for Sherrod’s resignation, which she gave.
The truth of course was quite different. Sherrod had in fact helped save the man’s farm and the two had become friends and remain so.
Sherrod was eventually offered her job back as the facts came out, but declined. Who could blame her?
The pattern by the Obama administration shows incredible political naiveté. What they don’t seem to understand is that nothing they do is going to change the behavior of the Fox pundits. They are, by and large, demagogues and as the administration caves on one issue, that just gives them fuel for the next assault.
There is little point in engaging with such people, much less giving in to them. They don’t care what the administration thinks or does. If Obama moves to the right, they’ll just move farther.
My advice, if you play chicken with foxes, you’ll just get eaten.
Michael Carley is a resident of Porterville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.