In a wide ranging interview with The New Republic, President Obama turned media critic when he blamed Fox News and Rush Limbaugh for what he called the “nasty atmosphere” in Washington.
Obama was responding to a question about whether or not there were Republicans that he has been able to forge a working relationship with:
Well, look, I’ve always believed that there are a bunch of Republicans of goodwill who would rather get something done than suffer through the sort of nasty atmosphere that prevails in Washington right now. It’s not a fun time to be a member of Congress.
And I think if you talk privately to Democrats and Republicans, particularly those who have been around for a while, they long for the days when they could socialize and introduce bipartisan legislation and feel productive. So I don’t think the issue is whether or not there are people of goodwill in either party that want to get something done. I think what we really have to do is change some of the incentive structures so that people feel liberated to pursue some common ground.
One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.
I think John Boehner genuinely wanted to get a deal done, but it was hard to do in part because his caucus is more conservative probably than most Republican leaders are, and partly because he is vulnerable to attack for compromising Republican principles and working with Obama.
The same dynamic happens on the Democratic side. I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word. And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this—are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.
But as Greta Van Susteren noted in her blog, the President lacks the type of congressional relationships that he is blaming Fox News and Limbaugh for preventing:
… It is also worth noting that President Obama has not developed relationships on Capitol Hill – note that he had to dispatch VP Biden to Capitol Hill for the recent tax debate because he does not have the relationships. VP Biden is well respected by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Even politicians who don’t agree with VP Biden (Republicans) like him and respect him. This enables him to work with his opponents.
Van Susteren also fought back against Obama’s charge that Republicans would be more willing to work with Democrats if they weren’t so afraid of being punished by Fox News and Limbaugh:
…Some Democrats have told me that they want to come on Fox to discuss issues but they get heat from their Leadership for appearing on Fox. Does President Obama know that? So which Party is intimidating its members? And to say Senator Harry Reid is willing to compromise is just wrong. He has not allowed a budget to get to the Senate Floor for years to even begin a discussion. The budget process is where all compromise begins and ends and ended it before it even got started.
Obama may be onto something in blaming Fox News and Rush for some of his political problems, but not for the reasons he is suggesting. Instead, Fox News and Rush are the most popular alternative media outlets that don’t parrot Obama and the Obama Media. They actually attempt to inform the public about the real implications of Obama’s actions, policies and appointments, and in doing so, cause him much political grief.