Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mayor Pete and Fox News

The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, made the most of his hour on Fox, taking aim at the president, vice-president and conservative pundits.  He fielded questions from Chris Wallace, who is regarded as one of the toughest guys in the news media to do an interview with.  The Fox news host offered praise for Buttigieg afterward.  Not the president or Fox friends, however, who were almost as peeved Fox would host such a liberal personality as were progressive Democrats who would like to see their candidates boycott Fox, as Liz Warren has done.

I'm of two minds on this one.  I see Liz's point.  There's no reason to feed the beast, but then Mayor Pete showed you could take on the beast in its own backyard and win.  It's not like you are going to get the Fox audience votes.  Curiosity is the extent of it.  Nevertheless, it shows a Democratic candidate isn't afraid to go into the lion's den, so to speak, even if these lions are mostly toothless and clawless.

Fox News does have some decent persons on its news program.  Shep Smith tries in vain to school his audience on key issues, and has repeatedly pointed out Trump's lies.  Chris Wallace and Brett Hume have both been critical of the president as they adopt a moderate line on the network.  Judge Nap has been very critical of the president lately in regard to the Mueller Report.  There are also the token liberals, Juan Williams and Bob Beckel, who are generally forgotten on the network.  For the most part, however, this is a propaganda network, given its most popular news shows crank up the conservative rhetoric ten fold and offer no apologies for their inflammatory comments.

Media Matters, PoliticusUSA and Vox spend a lot of time analyzing Fox, and late night comics often use the news network as a punching bag.  All of which just further draws attention to the network.  As Mayor Pete says, "it's the nature of grotesque things that you can't look away."  This didn't sit well at all with Trump or his Fox and Friends.  Brian Kilmeade petulantly responded, "Don't hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel."

However, I think we must look away.  Fox benefits greatly from all this attention.  Having Mayor Pete was a huge coup for the network, as he is hot property right now.  Love him or hate him, and most people love him, he boosts ratings.  While Pete is not afraid to fight it out with conservative critics, it doesn't really further his message of reconciliation and hope.  He has yet to define his positions on key issues because he spends most of the time dealing with media perceptions.

You can argue that this is primarily what the viewing audience is interested in, but at some point you have to start addressing key policy issues, and so far Mayor Pete hasn't done that.  His campaign remains largely an idea, very loosely defined and drawing attention largely because of his unique character.  This makes it tough for other candidates like Liz Warren to get her message across because the media is focusing so much on the candidates' personalities.

We will find out soon enough where the candidates stand on key issues as the first Democratic debates are scheduled for June 26 and 27.  Fox was not invited.  Most of the candidates will be on stage in a debate format similar to the Republican one in 2015, except that the candidates' places on the stage are determined by a random draw, not where they stand in the polls.  No "kiddie table" debates this time around.

One hopes that this will winnow the field a little bit, which currently stands at 24 announced candidates.  New York Mayor Bill De Blasio was the latest to enter the race.  He has been poorly received by much of the media and especially by the president, who called Mayor Bill "the worst Mayor in the history of New York City."  I wouldn't go that far, but there is very little De Blasio brings to the table.  All he succeeds in doing is further muddying an already very muddy field, but maybe he thinks of himself as Kentucky Derby winner Country House?

You have to hand it to Mayor Pete for continuing to make himself one of the most significant voices in the Democratic field.  The Fox Town Hall was yet another boost for him, as he garnered even more attention in its aftermath.   He really knows how to play the media and in the long run this will be his greatest strength.

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