Consultant class bozos and the FOX "debate"
by Joseph Hughes, Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 05:39:22 AM EDT
Hosting, as he frequently has in the past, "The Bill Press Show", Masters, billed as a Democratic consultant, chose to weigh in - and take calls - on the recent decision by the Nevada Democratic Party to pull out of an announced debate that was to be co-hosted by FOX News. This sensible move, brought about in large measure by the progressive netroots, signals the willingness by the party and its candidates to discuss openly the fact that FOX News is the house organ of the Republican Party and the readiness to challenge the legitimacy of FOX as a news operation. Right-wingers of every pay grade criticized the decision, as did FOX itself in a statement that says more about its obvious partisanship than it does the challenge its "fair and balanced" brand now faces. And this challenge, make no mistake, has the potential to marginalize the network to fringe status, something that, if you're FOX, just can't happen. And one of the only things preventing this from occurring is the cover some mealy-mouthed "Democrats" have been giving FOX. People like Masters.
There's nothing about Masters's background that screams anything other than corporatist, centrist "Democrat". Masters, for instance, is a partner at Qorvis, the public relations firm billing itself as a provider of "communications for Wall Street, Main Street and K Street". And the public relations firm who has worked for, among others, the government of Saudi Arabia (which earned the firm a 2004 FBI raid), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and, announced most recently, military contractor DynCorp (now under investigation for a $43.8 million camp that was never used and a $36.4 million expenditure for equipment like armored vehicles and body armor that can't be accounted for). New Yorkers may also remember Qorvis from late 2004, when the the insurance outfit American International Group (AIG) hired the firm to handle crisis communications regarding then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's insurance industry probe. AIG, however, subsequently fired Qorvis the same day it was reported that a booking agency, per their request, sent e-mails to its pertinent commentators asking them to think about being paid - as much as $25,000 - to speak negatively about Spitzer's investigation. Nice.
Upon news that the Democrats had dropped the debate, FOX Vice President David Rhodes said in a statement, "News organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, which appears to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party. In the past, MoveOn.org has said they 'own' the Democratic Party. While most Democrats don't agree with that, it's clearly the case in Nevada." While people like Rhodes have a vested interest in fighting to keep the FOX News brand free from mainstream challenges to its objectivity and legitimacy, people like Masters and, sadly, Dennis Kucinich shouldn't. For it was Kucinich who echoed Masters's thoughts when, searching for some media attention, he said, "It's an insult to the voters, and the height of cynicism, for candidates to refuse to take the public stage and subject themselves to public scrutiny." About the Nevada debate, Kucinich added, "If you want to be the President of the United States, you can't be afraid to deal with people with whom you disagree politically. No one is further removed from Fox's political philosophy than I am, but fear should not dictate decisions that affect hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of others around the world who are starving for real leadership."
While people like Masters and Kucinich might, in Kucinich's words, be far removed from FOX's "political philosophy", their criticisms of their own party serve only to embolden and enable the very philosophy from which they wish to distance themselves. Taking this tack - let's call it the "win a road game" argument - lends an unwarranted legitimacy to FOX News, placing it alongside actual news organizations. But FOX News isn't a legitimate news organization. It is a partisan propaganda operation with a documentedhistory of seeking to achieve and preserve Republican hegemony at the expense of anyone and anything else, especially Democrats. Its coverage of the Nevada debate - as has been the case with FOX-handled Democratic debates in the past - would have been anything but fair and balanced. Democratic candidates would no doubt have been referred to as "Democrat" candidates. Republican analysts (to say nothing of FOX hosts, anchors and reporters) would no doubt have dominated pre- and post-debate punditry. The questions would no doubt have been loaded. It would not have been, as the FOX-enabling Democrats would tell you, a chance for Democratic presidential hopefuls to reach new audiences and answer tough questions. It would have been an ambush, a chance for Republican propagandists to brand each candidate with the kind of smears typically reserved for the nominee in the run-up to the general election. In other words, a live, coast-to-coast, consolidated Swift Boating.
Saddest, to me, is that people like Masters and Kucinich should know that. Masters, who cited Bill Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace as evidence that appearing on FOX and fighting back is the proper course of action, is missing a key point: Surrounding Clinton's brilliant evisceration of Wallace was wall-to-wall FOX spin, all intended to cast the former president in a bad light. Another audience-fostered argument Masters supported was that FOX commentators, by virtue of the Democrats not participating in the Nevada debate, would have ample opportunity to repeat tired arguments about the Democrats' so-called weakness. "If we just cede that ground to them," Masters said, "I think it makes us look petty and, more importantly, I think it looks like we don't have a spine." Tell me, Rich, don't you think that would happen whether Democrats ignored FOX or not? (And, by the way, thanks for using the Republican frame, you dope.) "If you want to go fishing," Masters added, "you go where the fish are." Maybe so, Rich, but the fish swimming in FOX's cesspool aren't worth the effort. Because, no matter how potentially persuadable they are, the sheer amount of anti-Democratic spin sure to come before and after any debate or liberal appearance far outweighs the free airtime our politicians have been afforded. It's not about persuading apolitical voters by appearing on FOX. It's about not aiding and abetting in FOX's efforts to both appear as a legitimate news outlet and submarine the Democratic Party.
While one can, I suppose, excuse Kucinich's protestations as those of a third-tier candidate needing as much exposure as possible to gain traction in the race, it becomes much harder to excuse Masters's mindset. He's not running for office. He's appeared on FOX. He, of all people, should realize what the rest of us realize. Perhaps, however, what should make Masters see the light is the very same reason he's failed to here: He's a FOX News Democrat. FOX News Democrats are typically civil-to-a-fault, middle-of-the-road centrists who, during their appearances on the network, may get a few points across, but more often are shouted down, shouted over and known more for their willingness to agree with conservative arguments than treat them with the disregard they so often deserve. These days, "FOX News Democrat" is a descriptor synonymous with "Democratic consultant". Masters is both. And whatever damage to the party left incomplete by FOX News Democrats is often completed by Democratic consultants. They are the timid moderators stifling true progressivism. They are the old media worshipers distrustful of and dismissive toward the blogosphere. They are the corporate lickspittles helping allow our representatives, from time to time, to join the Republicans in screwing everyday Americans.
To heed the advice of a Democratic consultant on a matter like the FOX-hosted debate is like believing President Bush's evidence against Iran. Unwise now, disastrous later. And the sooner we stop listening to the consultant class and FOX News Democrats, the better. Until very recently, they dominated the debate within the party - and still do, in many instances. Remember where that got us? More than a decade under the Republicans' thumb in Congress and two terms of the worst - and most likely dumbest - president in American history. In many ways, the massive 2006 Democratic victory was almost as much a rebuke of the Democratic consultant class as it was the disastrous Republican leadership. The perfect media embodiment of the Democratic consultant and FOX News Democrat is someone like Joe Klein, who scolds those who are and have been right on matters like Iraq over their lack of "seriousness" while giving a free pass to those serious morons whose decisions have cost the lives of 3,000-plus Americans and countless thousands of Iraqis. And Masters, like Klein, does the American people a great disservice (to the benefit of the Republican Party) in this case by clouding the real issue with meaningless - and distracting - nitpicking. So, with all due respect, Rich, put a sock in it.