Published October 20, 2009
Two-and-a-half years into the Nixon presidency, White House Special Counsel Chuck Colson compiled a twenty person “enemies list”. The Colson list included then-CBS reporter Daniel Schorr and the late columnist Mary McGrory. It looks like the Obama administration is off to a head start. Not even having completed a year in office, President Obama's most senior aides have a bead drawn on Fox News. Unlike the Nixon enemies list which was secret, the Obama enemies list is hidden in plain sight.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff and Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel announced that Fox News was “not a news organization so much as it has a perspective.” At the same time, Senior White House aide and Chicagoan David Axelrod went on ABC's "This Week" and beseeched George Stephanopoulos and his fellow journalists to shun Fox. Axelrod said, that Fox was “not really a news station . . . .” Axelrod added “other news organizations, like yours, ought not to treat them that way, and we’re not going to treat them that way.”
And before that, White House communications director Anita Dunn complained that “Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Mind you, this is the same Fox News whose affiliate broke the story of George W. Bush’s DUI just days before the 2000 election.
Is there any great affection from Fox toward the president? No. But for that matter The New York Times and the rest of the Mainstream Media have seldom shown love toward Republican contenders and presidents. The New York Times endorsed Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama for president. The absence of GOP endorsements by The New York Times, however, does not seem to have rendered The Times unfit as an arbiter of journalistic standards. Nor should it. The First Amendment secures the right to free speech and a free press. It does not demand ideological conformity.
So what can we expect from Team Obama? A look to the past and human nature may provide guidance. By Autumn 1972, the Nixon White House was threatening to put Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham in a “big fat wringer.” Even before winning reelection, the Nixon administration compiled a second enemies list containing 576 names and furnished the list to the Internal Revenue Service.
Years later, Senator Kennedy sponsored legislation to force Rupert Murdoch to give up ownership of a Boston television station to “get back” at Murdoch for critical coverage. Kennedy did not like being called the “world's oldest juvenile delinquent.”
The Clinton White House rummaged the FBI files of members of the administration of George H. W. Bush.
With the likelihood of Barack Obama being elected to a second term, Fox, dissent and a free press may be in for a rough ride. Nixon was censorious and corrupt. For the moment, Obama is simply censorious.
Lloyd Green served in the Justice Department during the presidency of George. H.W. Bush.