Did Obama "Take on Fox?"
(Courtesy of Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo.)
The Fox News Sunday interview is over. And Obama didn't take on Fox at all in any meaningful sense.
On Friday, a senior Obama adviser responded to criticism of his decision to go on Fox with a bunch of tough talk, saying that Obama knew full well that Fox has been at the forefront of spreading "the most specious of rumors" (i.e., lies) about Obama and vowing that he would "take Fox on."
Well, it didn't happen. Obama definitely pushed back hard on some of Chris Wallace's questions, but at no point did he draw attention to Fox's spreading of lies about him or critique the network in a general sense.
Obama had a perfect opening to do this, too. Wallace pressed him repeatedly about Jeremiah Wright and the bogus "flag pin" nonsense -- a perfect set-up for Obama to point out that Fox had obsessed about both these issues to an obscene degree and that Fox had been at the forefront of spreading the Obama-is-a-Muslim lies.
To be clear, Obama wasn't obliged to go after Fox. But a senior adviser said Obama would, as a way of quieting criticism of him. And he didn't.
This will likely further dismay liberal bloggers who had worked very hard to get Dems to boycott Fox as a way of deligitimizing the network and who already criticized Obama for agreeing to appear in the first place.
Obama turned in a perfectly solid performance. He probably succeeded in making a positive impression on many voters he might otherwise not have reached. But the broadcast was clearly a big victory for Fox and Chris Wallace, too.
Indeed, at the very end of the interview, Wallace told Obama to not "be a stranger." Obama's response:
Late Update: Matt Stoller has some strong criticism of Obama's appearance.
Late Late Update: Several of you are arguing that there was something ambiguous about what the senior Obama adviser said on Friday. Here's what the adviser said:
"He is going on their Sunday show to take Fox on..."
Keep in mind that this adviser said this specifically to mollify critics who worried that Obama's decision to appear on Fox would help legitimize the network and hence hurt Dems overall. There's no ambiguity here to speak of: The adviser was telling these critics not to worry, that the reason Obama was going on was to "take Fox on."
And this just didn't happen in any meaningful sense. When Wallace brought up Wright and the flag-pin, for instance, Obama didn't point out that these bogus stories have been pushed relentlessly by Fox or that the network has pushed the Obama-is-a-Muslim lies. Again: Obama was not obliged to take on the network. But either way, the bottom line is that he didn't do it. Partly because of this, the interview -- which was a solid performance by Obama -- was also a victory for Fox.