The New York Times has a story today with a ridiculous premise: that recent attacks on Chris Christie by MSNBC progressives have led to "a messy divorce" between Christie and MSNBC. The Times story digs up one not-exactly-negative quote about Christie from Al Sharpton, but thatt doesn't make the premise any more persuasive. It's obvious that Christie's love relationship is with MSNBC weekday morning hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski exclusively, not with MSNBC as a whole, and the relationship is like Romeo and Juliet's: love you, not wild about your folks.
The gloss on this story by Mediaite house conservative Noah Rothman is nearly as silly, starting with the title: "Chris Christie's Risky War with MSNBC."
... there are lessons for Christie in how President Barack Obama dealt with an adversarial network -- Fox News Channel -- of which the New Jersey governor should be mindful.And this is a cautionary tale for Christie as he attacks MSNBC? Oh, please -- there's nothing for Christie to worry about, because the two situations aren't comparable.
One of the president's first political targets upon entering office was Fox. Obama's allies did their best to discredit the network. Both former White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod and former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel repeatedly insisted in 2009 that Fox was not a news network so much as an opinion network -- and an anti-Obama one at that. In 2010, the president himself insisted that Fox peddles a "point of view that I think is ultimately destructive."
But the White House's war against Fox went nowhere and ultimately resulted in stalemate and a tense ceasefire. In the end, it was the White House that was diminished by their scuffle with a cable news network, which gained notoriety and influence as a result of their high-profile skirmish with the leader of the free world.
Most people in the political mainstream have no problem whatsoever with Fox News; they stuck up for Fox when Obama tried to push back, even the ones who regard themselves as more or less liberal. They regard Fox as a harmless pro wrestling channel for politics; they snicker when it's argued that Fox has actual political clout. (Recall how reviewers of Gabriel Sherman's Roger Ailes bio discounted Sherman's contention that Ailes is a kingmaker -- as if Ailes's failure to elect a president in the last two cycles takes away from Fox's ability to drive right-wing turnout in congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races.)
A few people in the political mainstream criticize Fox -- but do so only when they're also criticizing MSNBC, which they describe as equally partisan and equally influential. (Yeah, remember when MSNBC singlehandedly made Occupy Wall Street into a mainstream political force that changed the composition of Congress? That was awesome.)
Either way, Fox is harmless -- silly political theater in the former case, completely offset by MSNBC, and thus neutralized, in the latter.
But no one in the mainstream actually defends MSNBC -- MSNBC's programming is generally regarded as the media equivalent of your blue-haired goth college daughter plopping herself down in the middle of a cocktail party for the grown-ups, inappropriately dressed and saying shocking things. The merits of MSNBC -- the actual journalism broadcast by Rachel Maddow and Steve Kornacki, for example -- are simply ignored.
So it's a free shot, Chris Christie. Fire away.
Rothman also says this:
If the allegations against Christie are shown to be false or politically motivated, the decision to litigate conservatives' frustrations with MSNBC in public could be viewed as a master stroke that saved both his RGA chairmanship and rescued his presidential prospects. Should Christie's office be unable to finally put these allegations to rest, or if any of them prove founded, it will be the New Jersey governor and not MSNBC which will have lost credibility.Funny how MSNBC actually has to be right for Christie to lose credibility. Rothman has just told us that Obama lost credibility in attacking Fox, even as Fox was giving airtime to people who called Obama a communist, attacked him as an America-hater, questioned his birth certificate, accused him of deliberately seeking to destroy the economy, and aired edited clips purpoting to demonstrate that, for instance, Shirley Sherrod was a racist. Fox, curiously, didn't have to tell the truth in order to come out the winner when attacked by a politician. It just had to exist.